Reilly Opelka advanced to his second ATP Tour semi-final on clay on Friday at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship, building on his first Houston victory to book a marquee matchup against Nick Kyrgios, who advanced via walkover.
The American was a 6-3, 7-5 winner over Dutch qualifier Gijs Brouwer, making it four sets in a row for the World No. 18 after he dropped the opening stanza of his campaign against countryman Mitchell Krueger. Opelka entered the ATP 250 event with an 0-4 main-draw record in Houston, with his last appearance in 2019. With the benefit of a first-round bye, he’s started his clay-court swing strongly on home soil.
“The bye weeks are nice, they really are, to come in a little later, have more time to prepare on the court,” he said. You get to take your time and that’s huge.”
Despite facing windy conditions and entering the match without a scouting report on his World No. 361 opponent, Opelka was able to power through the opening set behind an early break. But he had to battle back from 1-3 down in the second to match his semi-final effort on the clay of the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome last May.
Working for the weekend 💪 @ReillyOpelka gets past Brouwer 6-3 7-5 and will face Kyrgios in the Houston semi-finals.#USClay pic.twitter.com/Wh2ySdnymv
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 8, 2022
Kyrgios advanced before the start of play as Michael Mmoh’s withdrew with a right adductor strain. Saturday’s semi-final meeting will be their second ATP Head2Head matchup, with Opelka winning a three-setter in the opening round of the ATP Masters 1000 Toronto event in August. (Opelka went on to reach the Toronto final, losing to Daniil Medvedev.)
“Nick, you never know what you’re going to get,” the American said, looking ahead to the match against his friend. “I’ve got to serve better than the way I’ve been to beat that guy, for sure.”
Kyrgios, previewing Saturday’s match, added: “I’m excited to be in the semi-final against Reilly, someone who’s been playing extremely good for the last couple of years. Really finding his game style and executing.
“I’m just excited to go out there again in front of the Houston crowd. The key is going to be serving well. We’ll see, it might come down to a couple of points.”
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Though neither man is known as a clay-court specialist, both have been in good form in Houston and both have reached multiple ATP Tour semi-finals on the surface, with Kyrgios through to that stage for the third time on clay.
“I think we’re both pretty comfortable in the clay, as it seems in this tournament,” the Aussie said. “I think Houston’s pretty good conditions for both of us.”
While Kyrgios will be playing in his first ATP Tour semi-final since August 2019, when he won the Washington title, Opelka will contest his fourth semi-final of the season as he seeks a second title of 2022.
Saturday’s second final will see defending champion and fifth seed Cristian Garin take on John Isner after both men notched three-set victories on Friday.
Garin defeated Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, on his fifth match point, as he begins to find form for the first time on the 2022 season. He entered Houston with a 3-7 record, and has now doubled his win total by reaching the semi-finals with a trio of three-set victories.
Just 2️⃣ wins away from defending his Houston crown 🏆@Garin_Cris upsets Fritz in a 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3 thriller 👏 #USClay pic.twitter.com/pPbxxlIKRL
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 8, 2022
His win over Fritz was the first in which he didn’t have to come back from a set down, though the American fought back from a break down twice in the second set to make Garin earn the victory. After the Chilean took control with a 5-0 lead in the third set, Fritz saved three match points to close to 3-5, then created three break points before Garin ultimately succeeded in his second attempt to serve it out.
Fourth seed Isner, who saved a match point in his opening victory over Steve Johnson, got past another countryman in Frances Tiafoe, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, to reach his second ATP Tour semi-final of the year. The 2013 Houston champion was two for 10 on his break point chances, splitting those breaks between the first and third sets.
After securing an early advantage in the third, Isner did not face a break point as he closed out the victory.
All of the action from Houston can be seen on ESPN3 in the U.S., with the semi-finals set to begin at 1 p.m. local time.