Bothered by shoulder, Reilly Opelka hits 15 aces in Houston win

BNP Paribas Open - Day 10
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HOUSTON – Reilly Opelka came back from a set down while dealing with an achy shoulder and ended up with 15 aces in a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over qualifier Mitchell Krueger in the second round of the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship.

Opelka is ranked No. 18 in the world and seeded No. 3 in Houston, where he had been 0-3 until Wednesday. This was his first clay-court match of the season as the tour begins to gear up for the French Open, which starts May 22.

“I’m a guy that hasn’t always been the most consistent, especially changing surfaces,” the 24-year-old American said. “I found a way to win and I competed. It shows that I’m more open-minded to different court positions, different tactics, different techniques, different everything. That allows me to kind of find more ways to win when my Plan A and B don’t work.”

Opelka said his right shoulder has been bothering him since the day after a three-set victory over Denis Shapovalov at Indian Wells, California, on March 15. Opelka ended up losing his next match at that hard-court tournament, in the fourth round, against Rafael Nadal in two tiebreakers.

Ten days later, Opelka stopped playing during the second set of his opening match at the Miami Open, citing the shoulder.

An MRI exam showed “there’s nothing major to be worried about,” Opelka said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”

On Wednesday, against the 161st-ranked Krueger, Opelka said his kick serve is what caused him the most pain, so he wasn’t reaching back fully. But after getting broken twice in the opening set, Opelka explained, he decided to think of things this way: “I’m just going to go for it – and if it hurts, it hurts.”

With no match scheduled for him Thursday, Opelka said he planned to work on his shoulder with a physiotherapist.

In other matches Wednesday, Nick Kyrgios defeated Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-2 to reach his first tour-level quarterfinal on clay since getting that far in Houston in 2018, lucky loser Michael Mmoh eliminated Sam Querrey 6-2, 6-4 to reach his third career quarterfinal on tour, and qualifier Gijs Brouwer beat wild-card entry J.J. Wolf 6-1, 6-1 at night.

Mmoh got into the field after No. 1 seed Casper Ruud dropped out because of a wisdom tooth problem. Querrey was the runner-up in Houston in 2010 and 2015.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

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PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”

Debutant Stearns beats former champ Ostapenko to reach French Open 3rd round

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PARIS — French Open debutant Peyton Stearns produced the biggest win of her career by defeating former champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the third round at Roland Garros.

Stearns, a former player at the University of Texas, only turned professional in June last year.

Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open but has since failed to advance past the 3rd round. The 17th-seeded Latvian dropped her serve five times against Stearns and hit 28 unforced errors in her 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 loss.

The 21-year-old Stearns has been climbing the WTA rankings and entered the French Open at No. 69 on the back of an encouraging clay-court campaign.

Third-seeded Jessica Pegula also advanced after Camila Giorgi retired due to injury. The American led 6-2 when her Italian rival threw in the towel.

Only hours after husband Gael Monfils won a five-set thriller, Elina Svitolina rallied past qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

In the men’s bracket, former runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. The fifth-seeded Greek was a bit slow to find his range and was made to work hard for two sets but rolled on after he won the tiebreaker.

No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 Novak Djokovic are on court later. Alcaraz meets Taro Daniel on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Djokovic will follow against Martin Fucsovics in the night session.