Nick Kyrgios held his nerve to win an all-Aussie battle against fifth seed John Millman on Monday at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com. In a match where nothing separated the two baseliners for more than two hours, Kyrgios found a new gear in the final minutes of the contest to advance 6-4, 6-7(1), 7-6(3).
“My serve keeps bailing me out of these types of matches, which is pretty fortunate for me,” said Kyrgios, who finished the night with 19 aces. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. John is one of the toughest competitors on tour and he’s a good mate of mine, so I’m just happy to get through with the win.”
The victory was critical for Kyrgios, who has dropped to No. 64 in the ATP Rankings and arrived in Delray Beach with a 1-2 record this season. But having pulled out of Delray Beach last year due to a right elbow injury, this week is a valuable opportunity for the Aussie to begin pushing himself back up the ATP Rankings.
Kyrgios lost his only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting to Millman in the first round of the 2017 US Open and proved eager to turn the tables. He opened the match with a break of serve and rode that slight advantage to take the first set. Both men held serve throughout the second set to force a tie-break, but Kyrgios double faulted to give Millman a 3/0 lead and the fifth seed forced a decider.
The final set featured 12 more service holds to bring another tie-break, but Kyrgios increased the speed on his forehand to control the baseline rallies and prevail after two hours and four minutes. He’ll take on either 2015 champion Ivo Karlovic of Croatia or Radu Albot of Moldova in the next round.
The opening match of the evening session saw wild card Lloyd Harris of South Africa earn the second ATP Tour main draw win of his career with a 7-6(1), 6-3 victory over qualifier Darian King of Barbados. Harris, who made his debut in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings earlier this month, saved three set points on his serve at 4-5 in the opening set.
“I’m happy to get the win and thought I played pretty good tonight,” said Harris. “I’ve been playing my best tennis over the past six months and if I play well, I believe I can beat anyone.”
A single break in each set was all Lukas Lacko of Slovakia
Entering the 2018 Delray Beach Open, Frances Tiafoe was No. 91 in the ATP Rankings. The American had made just one tour-level quarter-final, which came the previous week at the inaugural New York Open.
“I had no expectations at all,” Tiafoe said.
In the first round, Tiafoe faced Matthew Ebden, who defeated the American with the loss of just five games the month before. But the American hung tough after losing the second set against the Aussie to reach the second round in Delray Beach.
Next up was a daunting task: Tiafoe’s childhood idol and 2011 champion Juan Martin del Potro. The Argentine had won both of their previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, including a straight-sets victory at the Australian Open just weeks before.
But Tiafoe summoned some of his best tennis, converting on his fourth match point to defeat Del Potro after two hours and 27 minutes in a three-set thriller. It was just his second victory against a Top 10 opponent.
“I was cool with the tournament after I beat Delpo, honestly. Could have lost in the next round and I really wouldn’t have cared,” Tiafoe said.
Perhaps more impressively, Tiafoe earned the respect of his idol, Del Potro. The ‘Tower of Tandil’ would go on to claim his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open and climb to a career-best World No. 3 in August, so it took a lot for Tiafoe to beat him.
“Frances has everything to be in the top positions very soon. He has talent, the power to play long matches. [He has] the smart things to be playing in front of the top guys, also. I like to see him enjoying this sport,” Del Potro said on Monday. “I know he has a little bit of pressure on his back because the whole country is expecting too much of him. But he’s going to be a better player in a very short period because he’s already a good player for us and I would love to watch him playing finals and winning tournaments.”
“That was great,” Tiafoe said upon hearing of Del Potro’s encouraging words. “It’s still funny hitting with him and spending time with him. It’s good to see him back. He’s such a nice guy and anything he says, even saying hi to me, means a lot to me. I’m a huge fan.”
The tough part for Tiafoe was th
Monday’s matches were a wash at the Rio Open presented by Claro, with all seven scheduled singles matches canceled due to rain in Rio de Janeiro.
Only two matches made it on court. Federico Delbonis of Argentina leads seventh seed Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 5-3 and Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain leads eighth seed Nicolas Jarry of Chile 4-3.
The top four seeds headline Tuesday’s schedule of play that features all 16 first-round matches. Top seed Dominic Thiem of Austria takes on Laslo Djere of Serbia in the evening session, followed by fourth seed and defending champion Diego Schwartzman of Argentina squaring off against 2016 champion Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.
After winning his first ATP Masters 1000 title last March at the BNP Paribas Open and climbing to a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 3 in August, Juan Martin del Potro was flying high. That was until October when he fractured his patella at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.
“[I was thinking] horrible things. I thought that was the final of my life. I got the fracture in the knee that I never expected to have,” Del Potro said. “After bad days I started believing in my doctors again that I’ll play tennis soon and I think I’m in a good way again to be competitive. After four months, I’m going to be playing a tournament, which is good [recovery] time. But I know how difficult it is to be ready for playing in the big events and holding the top positions in the [ATP] Rankings and I know this way because I had it in the past. But this is my life and I know how to deal with these problems.”
While it’s not a situation any player wants to deal with, Del Potro has recovered from worse positions. This week three years ago, the Argentine sat outside of the Top 1,000 of the ATP Rankings, falling as low as No. 1,045 the week of 8 February 2016. He underwent left wrist surgeries on 24 March 2014 (joint), 20 January 2015 (ligament) and 18 June 2015 (tendon), as well as right wrist surgery on 4 May 2010.
“I have the experience doing comebacks, but it’s not good for me and for other players. I know it takes time and then you have to be having enough confidence to move 100 per cent, to feel the body in good shape and then the tennis part comes,” Del Potro said. “First of all I have to be healthy, and then I will start to think about tennis. But Delray Beach is a good time to see how my knee works during a match and then we’ll decide where’s going to be next.”
Del Potro is not putting any special pressure on himself in his first tournament in four months. Instead, he is trying his best to enjoy the sport. The Argentine takes on Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round.
“I know how difficult it is to come back and play a tournament like this, but I’m ready for playing a match again,” Del Potro said. “I know I will need a little bit of time to get confidence in my body and my game. But I’m excited to be playing again so
It was all about Big O in the Big Apple. Last week, Reilly Opelka was the talk of the ATP Tour, making a massive statement as big as his 6'11" frame in claiming his maiden title at the New York Open.
Opelka turned in an overwhelming serving display, hammering 156 aces while earning four deciding-set victories to lift the trophy. He saved six match points to stun top seed John Isner in the semis, before edging Brayden Schnur in a third-set tie-break on Sunday.
It was the crowning achievement for the 21-year-old, who made significant strides over the past year to arrive at this moment. To say that a player 'put in the hard work' can often sound clichéd, but in this case it couldn't be closer to the truth. Armed with a well-rounded game and transformed approach, Opelka has put in the hard yards.
Winning breeds winning, regardless of the level, and Opelka has adopted that mentality. He points to his 2018 Challenger campaign as the impetus for his strong tour-level results in 2019. The American is proving that while his game is predicated on a mammoth serve, his agility, court awareness and touch around the net are his keys to victory, especially in pressure moments. As he continued to win matches, those skills matured at a rapid rate.
The oft-injured American has battled foot and leg ailments in recent years, which has hampered his progress since breaking onto the scene as a teenager. But, finally healthy and under the tutelage of Jean-Yves Aubone, Opelka emerged as one of the biggest stars on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2018. It was a breakthrough campaign for the Michigan native, and despite battling a debilitating case of mononucleosis during the summer months, he turned in a staggering surge up the ATP Rankings.
"Last year was huge for me," Opelka reflected. "It was the first time I consistently put together a lot of matches in a row. I reached a lot of semi-finals and I think the year before there wasn't one week where I had won three matches in a row. Being able to play on the Challenger Tour and not as many ATP Tour events, helped me string all those matches together. It gave me a lot of confidence and I learned a lot about myself and my tennis. It allowed me to work on some things that I knew needed to be addressed."
Entering the 2018 season, Opelka had won a combined 17 matches at the Challenger level in his young career. He doubled that total in the span of 11 months, finishing with an impressi