Return Game Pays Dividends As Norrie Wins Delray Beach Title

Cameron Norrie (photo: ATP Tour video)

DELRAY BEACH, FLA./WASHINGTON, February 21, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Cameron Norrie came into Sunday’s title match of the Delay Beach Open by against Reilly Opelka seeking to win his third ATP Tour singles title in just his eighth final. He was undefeated as the No. 1 seed on the ATP Tour, winning his first title as the No. 1 last year in Los Cabos. Could he repeat his success of a year ago?

The answer was yes.

The World No. 13 from Great Britain beat the big-serving, gentle giant Opelka from the United States, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (4), in an hour and 51 minutes to become become the highest-ranked player to win Delray Beach in the 30-year history of the tournament and just the second No. 1 seed.

Norrie triumphed with the aid of his return game, winning 48 percent of the second-seeded Opelka’s second serves to go along with his garnering 90 percent (43 of 48) of his first-serve points. It was his combination of offensive and defensive skills which made a difference. It didn’t matter that Opelka, who required treatment on his elbow in between the first and second sets, finished with 25 service aces because that was pretty much a given. However, the American No. 2, ranked 20th, won only 72 percent (47 of 65) of his first-serve points.

Indeed, Norrie was patient through both sets and tie-breaks against Opelka. He dropped just one set the entire week and improved his 2022 record to 6-5. The loss ended Opelka’s seven match winning streak and denied him a chance to win back-to-back ATP 250 titles.

“I thought I played a very clean match,” Norrie said in press after the victory. “I didn’t face a break point so that was great. I was happy with the way I played and obviously with the result.

“The tie-breaks I played extremely aggressively, the second one especially, I managed to put a couple of balls away and I was reading the play great. [I’m] super happy to et the win and beat a guy like Reilly, who is confident and playing well and won [the Dallas Open title] last week.”

Meanwhile, Norrie’s success – winning Delray Beach was his third career ATP Tour singles title and first since winning the Masters 1000 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. last October – spoiled what had been a great homecoming week for Opelka, a Delray Beach, Fla. resident, who won his hometown title in 2020 and was looking for his fourth ATP Tour title in his fifth final. A win would have made Opelka the fifth two-time winner in tournament history. There will be better days for him.

After securing his semifinal victory over John Millman late Saturday night, Opelka said of his title match against Norrie, “He’s the one seed for a reason. He won a lot of matches last year. He’s definitely fresher than I am. I had a long week last week and long night tonight. It’s the last one, I’ll leave it all on the line.

Indeed, Opelka left it all on the line. So much so that he pulled out of going to Acapulco due to fatigue, where he would have faced Rafael Nadal in the first round of the ATP 500 Abierto Mexicano Tercel in Mexico.

As for Norrie, he will be the No. 6 seed in Acapulco. He was to have faced Rio Open champion Carlos Alcaraz in the first round until the new champion withdrew, also citing fatigue. Instead, Norrie will play qualifier Daniel Altmaier of Germany.

Second straight doubles title for Aravelo-Gonzalez and Rojer

Top seeds Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands extended their winning streak to seven matches and won their second straight ATP Tour doubles title by winning the Delray Beach Open Sunday afternoon after capturing the Dallas Open title a week ago.

The No. 1 seeds defeated No. 3 seeds Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 10-4. The winning team formed last year at Delray Beach and lost in the first round. Now, after resuming their partnership on court beginning last month in Melbourne, they’ve become a nearly unbeatable team. They’re 9-4 on the young season and will be seeded No. 4 coming up this week in Acapulco.

“It’s awesome,” Rojer said Sunday. “It doesn’t happen that much, obviously, so to get back-to-back titles is great. At the same time, every match is different, and you can take the confidence [from winning the Dallas Open] for sure, that helps. But you saw today, one little let-up and the match gets complicated and then you’re playing a 10-point tie-breaker for the title.

“We’re happy with the result, we’re happy with the work we’ve been doing, both during the matches but also outside on the practice court, and it’s paying off for us.”

By the numbers

• Sunday’s final was the first time in the 30-year history of the Delray Beach Open that the top two seeds had met in the title match.

Reilly Opelka came into Sunday’s final as the leader in service aces in the main draw of the tournament, hit 56 – 38 more than Oscar Otte, who stood in second place with 18. On Sunday, Opelka added 25 to his total and finished the tournament with 81.

“Quotable …”

“It was a nice two weeks. I played a lot of matches here, a lot of long three-set matches. So, my body is definitely feeling it.”

– No. 2 seed Reilly Opelka, reflecting upon his runner-up finish at the Delray Beach Open.