Palm Coast’s Reilly Opelka rarely has a tennis match where his opponent gets more aces than him.
The towering 7-footer almost always can count on a dozen aces or so to blast past his opponent, and his serve is a huge reason he’s risen to No. 32 in the world, and it helped him past his first two opponents at the French Open in Paris this week.
But Friday he ran into one of the best serve returners on the planet in Daniil Medvedev, and the result was a straight-sets win for the Russian, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
Opelka smacked five aces in the match, to 10 for Medvedev.
Still, it was the best-ever result at Roland Garros for the 23-year-old Opelka, who has had a fine clay court season, with a semifinal appearance at the Italian Open in May and now two wins in Paris.
The match actually started very well for the former Indian Trails Middle School student. Leading 2-1 in the first set, he broke Medvedev’s serve to go up 3-1, and given how rarely Opelka’s serve is broken, he seemed in good shape to take the opening set.
But faster than you can say Belle Terre Parkway, Opelka’s lead vanished. Medvedev, the No. 2 seed and a finalist at the U.S. Open in 2019, immediately broke back and captured the next four games to snare a 5-3 lead and seize control of the match.
After holding on to win the first set, the 6-foot-1 Russian broke serve twice more to begin the second set, racing out to a 4-0 lead.
Then early in the third Medvedev broke again, his fifth break of the match, and closed it out.
Opelka, who finished with 26 winners and 36 errors, it was a rough match against an opponent he’d beaten in St. Petersburg, Russia last October. But he heads into the grass-court season and Wimbledon with confidence, and moves to a surface where his huge weapons are likely to be more effective.
— Michael J. Lewis for FlaglerLive