Opelka Keeping It Simple In Geneva, Winning Too

Reilly Opelka (photo: Jean-Luc Auboeuf, Gonet Geneva Open)

GENEVA/WASHINGTON, May 19, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Reilly Opelka reached his fifth ATP Tour semifinal this year – most in a single season in his career – at the Gonet Geneva Open Thursday afternoon in southwestern Switzerland. His game plan this week has been based on keeping things simple, from his demonstrative serve and powerful ground strokes through to the minimalist way in which he’s signed the camera lens after each of his two victories at the Tennis Club de Genève Eaux-Vives.

The World No. 18 from Delray Beach, Fla. started his quarterfinal match against No. 64 Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands strong and finished stronger. The No. 4 seed’s 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory lifted him into the semifinal round against World No. 8 and second seed Casper Ruud of Norway. Opelka is chasing after his second clay-court title of the season after winning the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship at Houston in early April, and third ATP Tour title overall after winning the Dallas Open in February.

Opelka’s victory against Griekspoor was his 18th this season against lower-ranked players and 19th victory overall. He did it with power and agility – and simplicity, too. Opelka finished with 14 service aces, including seven in the opening set, and won 85 percent (40 of 47) of his first-serve points. No matter where Griekspoor decided to position himself on the court to receive Opelka’s booming first serves – and, often, it was as far back behind the baseline as he could go – it didn’t seem to matter.

After splitting the first two sets, Opelka recovered mentally well and quickly broke Griekspoor to go ahead 2-0 in the final set. He lost only two points on his serve during the third set en route to securing the three-set victory. The American gentle giant set up match point with his 14th ace and won on his first opportunity after the Dutchman promptly netted a second-shot forehand return. Opelka, who converted three of seven break-point chances, outpointed Griekspoor 76-71.

After struggling on European clay with consecutive losses in Munich (Oscar Otte), Madrid (Sebastian Korda) and Rome (Stan Wawrinka), Opelka is finding his form and rhythm in Geneva this week. It’s a tournament he’s only played twice in his career, but Opelka said he’s looking forward to many happy returns. During an interview earlier this week, he explained: “I chose here for a reason, it’s beautiful. It has everything you kind of want before [the French Open in] Paris. It’s calm, it’s quiet. Paris is obviously the opposite – especially coming here from Rome, which is even louder than Paris.

“It’s the perfect mix in between weeks, the best preparation for me,” Opelka added. “I like to see myself here for the rest of my career and coming back and making it a part of my schedule.”

Although Opelka, who is a devoted fan of modern art, hinted that the best Swiss art of his liking is to be found in Basel and Zurich, he looks forward to experiencing the Geneva modern art scene, too.

After signing the camera lens with a short, straight line following his Wednesday victory against Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell, Opelka chose to illustrate his win over Griekspoor with a simple, tiny black dot. Who knows what he’ll do if he defeats defending champion Ruud in their Friday semifinal. Maybe, a simple circle or rectangle? Stay tuned.

Ruud remains undefeated in Geneva

Defending champion Casper Ruud of Norway set up a semifinal against fourth seed Reilly Opelka after sweeping aside Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, 6-4, 7-6 (3), Thursday afternoon. Although there were a few rain drops that fell in the second set, it wasn’t enough to interrupt the match – and it certainly didn’t dampen Ruud from earning his 22nd victory of the season.

The World No. 8 and top seed Ruud, who swept clay-court titles last summer in Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbuhel and has won one title this year, in Buenos Aires on red dirt, remained undefeated on clay against Australians. He improved to 5-0.

After breaking Kokkinakis to garner the opening set while winning points on his first serve at a 94-percent rate of efficiency, Ruud marched on to victory in an hour and 43 minutes. He broke Kokkinakis four times during the second-set tie-break to earn the quarterfinal win, remaining cool, calm and collected. Ruud wound up winning 91 percent (39 of 43) of his first-serve points. He saved the only two break points he faced from Kokkinakis and outpointed his opponent 69-60.

Around the Geneva Open

• No. 75 Richard Gasquet of France reached his 67th career tour-level semifinal and first since last July at Umag with his 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 81 Kamil Majchrzak of Poland in an hour and 27 minutes. Gasquet, who won all but one of his first-serve points (21 of 22, 95 percent) and broke Majchrzak three times, outpointed his opponent 70-54.

Next, Gasquet will face No. 79 João Sousa of Portugal in Friday’s second semifinal match. Sousa held off No. 50 Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, 7-5, 7-5, in one hour and 46 minutes. Sousa broke Ivashka for the fourth time in the second set – and sixth time during the match – and won on his third match-point opportunity. He outpointed Ivashka 73-64.

• No. 1 doubles seeded Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, advanced to the semifinal round with a 6-7 (5), 6-2, 10-5 comeback victory over Fabrice Martin of France and Romain Arneodo of Monaco in an hour and 36 minutes.

Next, the fourth-ranked team in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Teams Rankings will face Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic and Hunter Reese of the United States. The other semifinal will pair the Portuguese duo of João Sousa and Francisco Cabral against Pablo Andújar of Spain and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands.

Thursday’s Gonet Geneva Open results

Friday’s Gonet Geneva Open order of play

By the numbers

With his win over World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev on Tuesday, France’s Richard Gasquet has a career win over every position in the Top 100 Pepperstone ATP Rankings. He became the 10th active man with 35 or more career wins over Top 10 players. He is through to his 67th tour-level semifinal and first since last July at Umag.

“Quotable …”

“Maybe Andy Murray. I always liked the way he played a lot, and in February we were practicing in Rotterdam. I even posted a photo. I have one photo when I was 12 and he was 20, or something like that … and one now.”

Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, asked by the ATP Tour website to describe the last time he met a childhood idol.