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American Reilly Opelka is hitting aces at a record pace.

Opelka Crushing Aces, Milestones To Start 2019

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how Opelka is on pace for a record-setting career

Records and milestones are falling at will for 21-year-old Riley Opelka. The 6’11” American won his maiden ATP title at the New York Open on Sunday and rose 33 spots to a career-high of No. 56 in the ATP Rankings this week. An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Opelka’s biggest weapon, his serve, uncovers just how easily aces flow from his racquet.

1. Career High / Aces Per Match
Opelka has hit 654 aces in 32 tour-level matches to quickly become the career leader in Average Aces Per Match at 20.4. It’s a staggering achievement for such a young player, and it is an extremely positive indicator that his emerging career can go in whatever direction he wants.

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Top 5 Career Leaders: Average Aces Per Match
Reilly Opelka = 20.4
Ivo Karlovic = 19.8
John Isner = 18.1
Wayne Arthurs = 15.8
Sam Groth = 15.4

As good as those numbers are, his record during the past 52 weeks is even more impressive. Opelka is averaging a mind-blowing 27.8 aces per match during the past 12 months. It’s as close to untouchable as our sport has witnessed.

2. Ace Record For A Match
Opelka defeated John Isner 6-7(10), 7-6(14), 7-6(4) in the semi-finals of the New York Open last week, with both players combining to strike 81 aces – an ATP record for a three-set match. Opelka hit 43, and Isner hit 38.

Read More: Opelka Reflects On Winning First ATP Tour Title

The duo also combined to hit 87 aces in their first-round match at the Australian Open this year, with Isner contributing 47 and Opelka 40 during four tie-break sets.

3. New York Open / Aces Per Match
Opelka’s semi-final and final both went the distance to a third set tie-break, with the young American striking 43 aces in both matches. Opelka eclipsed his average ace tally (20.4) in four of his five matches in New York, and more than doubled the average in his final two matches.

New York Open: Opelka Aces Per Match

Round

Opponent

Score

Aces

Final

Brayden Schnur

6-1, 6-7(7), 7-6(7)

43

Semi Final

John Isner

6-7(8), 7-6(14), 7-6(4)

43

Qtr Final

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez

6-3, 6-4

14

Rd 16

Denis Istomin

6-7(8), 7-6(6), 1-0 RET

32

RD 32

Adrian Mannarino

2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4

24

-

-

AVERAGE

31

The simplicity of Opelka’s serve motion is a key component to him being so accurate and often hitting close to the lines when he hits aces. His fluid serve motion can be broken down into five phases.

1. Ready Position: Opelka leans forward on his front foot with the neck of his racquet resting on his left hand. That helps hold the weight of the racquet in the ready position, which in turn keeps his right arm loose.

2. Weight Transfers Back: He rocks to his back foot to build energy and keeps his racquet low while lifting his tossing arm high in the air.

3. Loading Phase: Opelka then brings his back foot up right behind his front foot and drops into a deep knee bend, preparing to explode up and forward into the court. Importantly, he keeps his tossing arm straight up in the air as long as he can to help make his toss more consistent.

4. Explosion At Contact: Opelka keeps his eyes and head up at contact and has his whole body in the air in front of the baseline as he unleashes all his energy into the serve.

5. Into The Court: Opelka lands a long way into the court on his left leg, and impressively, does not go too deep and low with his knee bend to then prepare for the next shot – if indeed there is a next shot.

Opelka is the real deal, and will be looking to break into the Top 50 and beyond in the coming months. He has no points to defend from Indian Wells or Miami. Of the 18 tournaments he currently has points from, 13 are sourced from ATP Challenger Tour events or qualifying for ATP Tour events. That landscape is going to look very, very different 12 months from now.

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