Big servers Isner, Opelka set up all-American Houston final

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HOUSTON – Tall, big-hitting Americans John Isner and Reilly Opelka joke about being “serve-bots” and their similar styles of play will be on display against each other in the final of the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship.

The fourth-seeded Isner, who won the Houston title in 2013, hit 17 aces to eliminate reigning champion Cristian Garin 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals. The third-seeded Opelka had 21 aces while beating Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-5.

The final will be the sixth career meeting between the 24-year-old Opelka, who is listed by the ATP at 6-foot-11, and the 36-year-old Isner, who is listed at 6-10.

Opelka leads 4-1 head-to-head, with four victories in a row.

“When guys like Reilly and I lock horns,” Isner said, “it’s going to be tiebreakers.”

Talk about an understatement.

The last 12 sets they contested all went to tiebreakers, including one Isner called “ridiculous” on Saturday. That’s because it went to 24-22 in the semifinals at Dallas in February – the longest tiebreaker in an ATP match since 1990. Opelka landed 39 aces in that win, 18 more than Isner.

Isner is up to 71 aces this week after playing three consecutive three-set matches, breaking his own Houston record of 64 aces for the tournament, which he established in 2013.

“Clay is a good surface for guys like Reilly and I,” Isner said. “Our serve is good anywhere. In my opinion, we don’t need a fast court to hold serve. And both of us maybe prefer a little bit of a slower court, to get into points and give ourselves time to wind up for shots. Faster courts make that a lot tougher.”

He is into his first tour-level clay final since Houston nine years ago and first final on any surface since on Atlanta’s hard courts in August 2021.

Opelka, meanwhile, got to his third ATP final of this season; only 21-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal has more, four.

This is the first tour-level final on a surface other than hard courts for Opelka, who is ranked 18th in the world.

Parma Ladies Open semifinals postponed to same day as final

parma ladies open
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PARMA, Italy — The semifinals of the Parma Ladies Open have been postponed by a day and will be played shortly before Saturday’s final.

The decision was made because of persistent rain at the clay-court tournament on Friday.

Top-seeded Maria Sakkari will start on center court against Danka Kovinic at 10:30 a.m. local time (0830 GMT) on Saturday before sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan’s match against Mayar Sherif.

The final will be after 6 p.m. local time, shortly after the doubles final – with the doubles semifinals also being played earlier in the day on a different court.

Top-seeded Sakkari reaches semifinals at Parma Ladies Open

Maria Sakkari
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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past 97th-ranked Maryna Zanevska 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday at the Parma Ladies Open to reach her first semifinal since the grass-court season.

Sakkari, who has gone three sets in all three of her matches this week, will face Danka Kovinic for a spot in the final of the clay-court event after Kovinic beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-4.

In her previous semifinal, Sakkari lost to Belinda Bencic in Berlin in June. The seventh-ranked Greek player was eliminated by Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 31.

In the bottom half of the draw, Mayar Sherif of Egypt beat American opponent Lauren Davis 7-6 (2), 6-3 to reach her second career semifinal. Sherif next faces Ana Bogdan, who defeated fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2, 7-6 (6).