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.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.