Reilly Opelka is on a compatriot-slaying run at the Delray Beach Open after ousting top seed and defending champion Jack Sock on Wednesday night. The 6’11” #NextGenATP American, who contested his first ATP World Tour event of the season, brought down his more fancied countryman 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Opelka, the World No. 228 in the ATP Rankings, thumped 17 aces to Sock’s four in the pair’s first meeting. He had already downed fellow American Ryan Harrison in the opening round and could have met another of his countrymen, No. 6 seed John Isner in the quarter-finals.
Isner – a three-time Delray Beach Open semi-finalist – narrowly fell, though, to German Peter Gojowczyk 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 7-6(5). It is Gojowczyk’s third quarter-final of 2018 having already reached the last eight in Doha and Auckland.
For Opelka, taking down Sock was the biggest win of his young career. It was a match he admitted to having few nerves having practised with his top-ranked compatriot before.
“Yeah it's definitely a great win for me,” Opelka said. “Jack’s a guy I’ve always looked up to, the No. 1 American. I have a lot of respect for him. Definitely a big win, good for my confidence, just got to get ready for the quarter-final.
“I didn’t serve as well as I’d have liked to or as well as I usually do. I was really pleased with how I played from the baseline though. I thought I hit my forehand great and made it really tough for him to be offensive, which is his game.”
After a blistering end to his 2017 season, in which he claimed a maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Paris and qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals, Sock has struggled to build on that run early in 2018. Defeat to Opelka sees his win-loss record for the year slip to 1-3.
“He was feeling it tonight, he was too good,” Sock said. “You’re not really ever in control against a seven-foot guy who can serve you off the court. Even after winning the first set it’s still 50-50 with his style of play.”
Steve Johnson has denied Milos Raonic back-to-back Delray Beach Open finals appearances with his first win over the Canadian on Wednesday. The American posted a 6-2, 6-4 result over the No.9 seed to reach the quarter-finals.
Johnson had fallen in three prior FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with Raonic. He will next meet Russian Evgeny Donskoy, an earlier 7-6(6), 6-3 winner over American Donald Young.
“The first set kind of got away from him with a second break so that is always comfortable,” Johnson said.
“It was important to get those first points on my serve to give myself a little bit of breathing room because when you get down and he starts hitting balls hard for winners, it’s kind of out of your control.”
Watch Live On TennisTV
Watch Full Match Replays
World No. 51 in the ATP Rankings, Johnson withstood 11 aces from the 27-year-old and lost just four points on his first serve to secure the result. It will be his first quarter-final appearance of 2018, a positive note in what has been by his own admission an up and down time of late.
“Still trying to keep my head above water and just take it one day at a time,” Johnson said. "Any chance you get to play more matches that always builds confidence.”
Raonic was in no way ready to apportion blame for his defeat on the blustery conditions disrupting his rhythm on Wednesday. The loss sees him fall to a 1-3 start to 2018.
“I’ve got to definitely review it, think about it, because that was a pretty poor level I put out there today. Not much to be happy with,” he said.
“I think he was just sharp. I’ve played him before so I knew what to expect. He was more aggressive today than other times. Was that my lack of creation, or was he just taking over and making me feel, in a lot of ways, silly out there? … I had a tough time with a lot of things today.”