Opelka, 18, reached Saturday’s semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 win over fellow American Donald Young. It was Opelka’s second straight win over a Top 60 opponent, after Opelka stunned world No. 28 ranked Kevin Anderson in a three-set thriller on Wednesday. He was a wild-card entrant into the $618,000 Atlanta championships.
Opelka, ranked No. 837 before the tournament began, turned pro after the U.S. Open last September and has had some injury troubles this season that kept him off the courts in parts of the spring. He has played several lower-level tournaments this year but had never won an ATP Tour level match until this past Monday, and now he’s in his first-ever pro semifinal.
“I’ve been doing a really good job with my movement, winning points on my opponent’s serve,” Opelka told the Associated Press after Friday’s match. ”The way I am serving now, I know I can at least get to a tie-break. But being able to hit good returns and passing shots is huge.”
Opelka, one of the few pro players taller than the 6-foot-10 Isner, has known the top American for years. They have practiced together several times and they share the same agent, Sam Duvall.
Opelka’s success this week means his ranking will be inside the Top 400 at least when new rankings come out Monday, but a win today over Isner would vault him even higher. He’s also guaranteed $27,300 for making iot to the semi-final. He’d make $50,500 as a runner-up, and $96,000 as the winner.
That match is scheduled for 7 p.m. The winner plays either Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan or Australian Nick Kyrgios, who are playing at 3 p.m. The Opelka match is on ESPN2.