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Alex de Minaur defeats Reilly Opelka in the Basel semi-finals to take a 4-0 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

De Minaur Dials In Under Pressure, Survives Opelka Epic In Basel

#NextGenATP Aussie into second ATP 500 final

#NextGenATP Aussie star Alex de Minaur reached his fourth ATP Tour final of the year on Saturday, eliminating American Reilly Opelka 7-6(2), 6-7(4), 7-6(3) after two hours and 34 minutes to reach the championship match of the Swiss Indoors Basel. The wild card will try to claim his fourth title of the season against nine-time Basel champion Roger Federer or third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“I can’t wait. It’s my first time here in Basel and it’s been a hell of an experience," De Minaur said. "I’ve got my friends with me, so it’s a little bit different and it’s been paying off. I’m really looking forward to coming out tomorrow and having some fun.”

De Minaur now leads the big-serving Opelka 4-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with all four of their matches coming in 2019. The 20-year-old is the first Aussie to reach the Basel final since Mark Philippoussis finished runner-up in 1997. No Australian man has won this tournament since its inception in 1970.

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Although Opelka blasted 26 aces to surpass the 1,000-ace milestone this year and pass John Isner for the ATP Tour-lead with 1,014 aces in 2019, De Minaur’s consistency proved too difficult to overcome. The Aussie made zero unforced errors in the second and third sets, putting constant pressure on the American to hit clean winners, which led to errors off of his racquet in crucial moments.

“Probably the most important thing is not to get frustrated. You’ve got to know that he’s going to serve at least 40, 50 aces against you," De Minaur said. "The way I like to look at things is I guess one way and commit to that way and if I guess right, make sure I make the return, don’t waste that opportunity.”

It’s been a strong three months for De Minaur, who earlier in the year struggled with a groin injury. He missed nearly two months after the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, and then lost seven of 10 matches upon his return. But De Minaur has bounced back in a major way, winning titles in Atlanta and Zhuhai before his deep run this week in Basel.

The two-time Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier will try to capture his first ATP 500 title from his second final at this level. Last year, he fell short against Alexander Zverev at the Citi Open.

De Minaur let slip a break in the first set, with Opelka rallying to force a tie-break. But the Aussie was too consistently solid, winning his first two return points of the tie-break to help him earn a 6/1 lead. At 6/2, Opelka blasted an approach shot down the middle to try to jam De Minaur, but the World No. 28 showed incredible reaction speed, finding a way to not only get his racquet on the ball, but to place a lob over the head of 6’11” Opelka.

There were no breaks of serve in the second set, and this time it was Opelka who got off to a strong start in the tie-break. The tall American showed his range with a cross-court backhand passing shot that even a diving De Minaur could not reach. Another mini-break made it seem this semi-final was on its way to a deciding set.

But De Minaur recouped both mini breaks and hit a big serve to recover from 1/4 to 4/4. Opelka quickly regrouped, though, using another critical backhand pass to help push the match to a third set.

“I knew coming in this was the match to expect. In the second set I did everything right, he just came up with two very big points, very big backhand passes on crucial points," De Minaur said. "I knew I just had to say, ’Too good’, and get ready for another third set and hopefully take care of my serve and come the tie-break, guess right a couple times and make a couple of returns.” 

In their only previous match that went to a deciding set, earlier this year in Atlanta, De Minaur found his range off the return to earn a break and ride his serve to victory. But this time, Opelka forced the 15th all tie-break match of 2019 — and his fourth of the year. The American was unable to capitalise on looks at the Aussie’s second serve, making mistakes early in the tie-break, and that allowed De Minaur to triumph, blasting a final big serve of the day to force an error, pointing to his camp with a massive smile in celebration.

De Minaur hit 14 aces himself, but he won a higher percentage of service points than Opelka, 80 per cent to 70 per cent.

Did You Know?
De Minaur is now 7-0 in tour-level semi-finals and finals in 2019.

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