Fritz Wins Battle Of Atlanta Big Swingers

Taylor Fritz (photo: Truist Atlanta Open)

ATLANTA/WASHINGTON, July 31, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Best of friends, Americans Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka put on quite a show at the Truist Atlanta Open, an ATP 250 hard court event at Atlantic Station in Midtown Atlanta Friday afternoon.

The fifth-seeded Fritz (25 aces) and No. 4 seed Opelka (23 aces) combined for 48 service aces and there were no breaks of serve during their two hour and 53-minute tussle. Although Opelka saved two match points while serving at 5-6 in the second set, ultimately it was Fritz who won 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) in the all-American quarterfinal battle to advance to Saturday’s semifinal round against No. 6 John Isner of the United States.

Atlanta represents the fourth semifinal of the year that Fritz has reached and second in two weeks after advancing to the last four last week in Los Cabos.

Fritz, who won 91 percent 62 of 68) of his first-serve points – including 100 percent (23 of 23) in the third set – has been very successful in three-set matches this year, winning seven of 10. Fritz outpointed Opelka 117-112 to improve his win-loss record this season 20-12 (14-6 on hard courts). After the match, the two competitors showed their mutual respect for one another by sharing a warm handshake and embrace at the net.

“I think it’s just kind of luck winning the big points here and there, playing solid every time against Reilly,” Fritz said during an on-court interview, in which he improved his career head-to-head against Opelka to 5-1. “I know it’s a match that’s going to be decided on a couple of points. I’m really fortunate to have the head-to-head be in my favor.”

Meanwhile, Isner beat 132nd-ranked qualifier Christopher O’Connell of Australia, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 6-4, which was delayed by thunderstorms then suspended by rain Friday night. The quarterfinal match finally ended early Saturday morning after two hours and 36 minutes as Isner secured match point with his 30th service ace.

Nakashima reaches back-to-back semifinals

NextGenATP rising star Brandon Nakashima followed his career-best win over No. 1 seed Milos Raonic on Wednesday with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 quarterfinal victory over No. 63 Jordan Thompson of Australia. The 19-year-old from San Diego, Calif., overcame Thompson’s 16 aces by breaking the Aussie’s serve once in each set en route to reaching his second straight semifinal. Nakashima outpointed his opponent 72-66. He beat Thompson last week in the quarterfinal round at Los Cabos last week.

“It’s always tough against Jordan,” the 115th-ranked Nakashima said during an on-court interview after his quarterfinal win, which was played under partly cloudy skies with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Farenheit (33º Celsius).

“He’s such a good player and has been at the top of his game for a while. I just tried to play my game. I know the conditions are tough. It’s super hot and humid and I tried to get through it as best as possible.”

Ruusuvuori upsets No. 3 seed Norrie

Next, Nakashima will face unseeded, 78th-ranked Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, who looked sharp during his 7-6 (1), 6-3 quarterfinal victory over No. 3 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain. The 29th-ranked Norrie arrived in Atlanta after winning his first ATP Tour singles title at Los Cabos last week.

In his Atlanta debut, the 22-year-old Ruusuvuori advanced to just his second career ATP Tour-level semifinal and first of this season after winning 86 percent (36 of 42) of his first-serve points and breaking Norrie’s serve twice in two tries. The loss ended Norrie’s five-match hard-court winning streak.

Friday’s Truist Atlanta Open results

Saturday’s Truist Atlanta Open order of play

Around Atlantic Station

Following his second-round defeat to Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell on Thursday, which was his fourth-straight loss, 19-year-old Jannik Sinner said he’s chalking it all up to the learning experience of being a young professional.

“[I am] playing tennis a lot, enjoying playing tennis, working physically and mentally to be in the best possible position when I am around 23 years old. I don’t know if it’s going to be when I am 23 or 22 or maybe already next week, you never know,” the 23rd-ranked Sinner said during press. “But what I think is very important [is] to think back where I come from. The people who stayed very close to me know how important tennis is for me, which I think [will be] my life for the next – hopefully – 20 years.

“[I am] just trying to enjoy every journey. It just started. So, hopefully, I can still sow some good tennis in the future.”

Sinner is into the doubles semifinals with Reilly Opelka and next week, he will play at the ATP 500 Citi Open in Washington, D.C. where he’s seeded fifth.