Will Australia’s Alex De Minaur maintain his perfect record against Reilly Opelka when he takes on the big-serving American in the semi-finals of the Swiss Indoors Basel on Saturday?
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De Minaur holds a 3-0 record against Opelka, all of those three matches played this year- Sydney, Atlanta and Cincinnati- and if he keeps that unblemished record on Saturday, he will move on to his first ATP 500 final of the season.
De Minaur has won titles at ATP 250 meets in Sydney, Atlanta and Zhuhai, and has secured a spot at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan following another impressive campaign. He was runner-up in Milan last year, losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
De Minaur opened the year with an impressive 10-3 run, winning Sydney, making the quarter finals in Brisbane and Acapulco and reaching the third round of the Australian Open, but he went off the boil for the remainder of the first half of the season, winning just three matches in his next eight tournaments, and losing five matches in a row at one particular stretch.
The young gun regained some form with a title run in Atlanta in July, and has been fairly consistent after that, adding the Zhuhai title to his collection, and reaching the fourth round of the US Open in his another key effort within the last couple of months. That was the first time he has reached the second week of a Slam. The 20-year-old has broken into the top-30 this year, reaching as high as 24th in the world. Currently ranked 28th, he is projected to attain a new career-high of 22nd next Monday, and will crack the top-20 for the first time if he gets past Opelka on Saturday’s Basel semi-final.
De Minaur is yet to drop a set in Basel, beating Hugo Dellien in the first round, before taking down a pair of big servers, Taylor Fritz and Jan-Lennard Struff in consecutive matches to advance to his fourth semi-final of the season.
Can he add Opelka to that impressive list and improve to 4-0 in ATP semi-finals this year?
Opelka has come through a very impressive list of scalps in Basel to reach his fourth semi-final of the season, opening with a 7-6 7-6 victory over Chile’s Cristian Garin, before taking down two Nitto ATP Finals hopefuls- David Goffin and Roberto Bautista-Agut to move into the semis.
Needless to say, the serve has played a huge role in his progress. Opelka hit 27 aces against Garin, winning a staggering 51 of 52 points on his first serve, and conceding no break points. To be fair, Garrin also had some stunning serving numbers in that match, winning 92% and 89% on his first and second serves respectively, and offering the American no break points, but it was Opelka who won the key points in the tie breaks, saving a couple of set points in the second set before converting his fourth match point in the 22-point breaker.
He powered down 29 aces in his 6-7 7-6 7-5 second-round victory over Goffin, and stepped it up to 31 in Friday’s win against Bautista-Agut.
Bautista-Agut had scored a 6-4 7-5 victory over Opelka in their only previous meeting in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago, and it was the Spaniard who made the better start in Basel on Friday breaking in the third game of the match to take a 2-1 lead. It was the first time Opelka had dropped his serve all week. The giant American hit back immediately for 2-2, and broke again for a 5-3 lead before producing a magnificent fightback in the next game to close out the opening set. The 22-year-old slipped to 0-40 while serving for the set, but he powered down five consecutive aces to bang the door shut against his opponent, and take a one-set lead.
Undeterred, Bautista-Agut fought back to take the second set, but Opelka would not be denied, converting the only break point of the deciding set en route a 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory.
The 6ft 11 American, who is currently operating at a career-high 37th in the world, claimed his maiden career title earlier this season at the New York Open, while he’s since added semi-finals in Atlanta and Tokyo to the mix. He has also had his best Grand Slam performance this year, reaching the third round at Wimbledon. Opelka is projected to rise to a new career-high ranking of 31st on Monday regardless of whatever happens in his semi-final against De Minaur of Saturday, and if he manages to pull off his first victory over the Australian, he will not only advance to his second tour-level final, but will also break into the top-30 for the first time.
“Bautista-Agut and De Minaur are two of the guys I always say I don’t want to be anywhere near in the draw,” Opelka said ahead of their Basel semi-final.
You can understand that, given his 0-3 record against the Australian. However, having already beaten Bautista-Agut, can he produce another serving masterclass to punch a route past the obdurate Di Minaur on Saturday?
Alex De Minaur vs Reilly Opelka is live from Basel on Saturday, 26 October from 2:30pm local time/ 1:30pm BST