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

Ken Murray/Getty Images
4 Comments

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.

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

Getty Images
1 Comment

The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

Getty Images
1 Comment

HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.