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Tennis News From Atlanta • De Minaur Takes Down Opelka, Faces Taylor Fritz In Finals

By Ricky Dimon


It will be a different looking BB&T Atlanta Open final on Sunday with no John Isner in the picture, but it will also be an intriguing one. Rising stars Alex de Minaur and Taylor Fritz both moved within one win of their second ATP titles following respective semifinal victories on Saturday.


De Minaur got the day started with a 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-3 defeat of Reilly Opelka, who upset the five-time champion and eight-time finalist Isner in the second round. The 20-year-old Aussie won 45 of 47 first-serve points and did not face a break point. He has not faced a single break point this entire tournament, in fact.


“You gotta know that pretty much if you get broken you’re going to lose any set,” de Minaur said of going up against the 6’10” Opelka. “I knew coming in that this was going to be an absolute battle. I just had to stay level-headed and hopefully things we’re gonna go my way…and they did.”


The world No. 34 had two break-point opportunities in the second set that almost certainly would have put the match away in straights, but Opelka fought them off in clutch fashion–not unlike his performance late in a tight third set against Isner. De Minaur bounced back to break serve early in the third, at which point he had things in cruise control the rest of the way.


“I had a couple chances in the second set and he came up with an ace and an unbelievable forehand,” de Minaur noted. “I just had to keep putting myself in that position; every point I won on his serve was going to help me in the long run…. At the end I managed to guess the right way on his serve and get the break.


Another win means de Minaur’s well-documented mustache stays.


“It’s been lucky here so far,” he joked. “I started it as a little bit of a funny thing at the start of the week. I’m not too sure you can call this a mustache. I’m just trying to replicate Jordan Thompson. He actually has facial hair…. (This is the) first time I’ve done it.”


Will it go with him to Washington, D.C. if he takes the title tomorrow?


“I think I need to,” de Minaur concluded. “It would be crime to shave it off; doesn’t matter how bad it looks.”


But it won’t be easy against Fritz, who just lifted his first ATP trophy in Eastbourne and is now through to another title match following Saturday night’s 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory over doubles partner Cameron Norrie.


“It feels great,” the 21-year-old American assured. “It’s so reassuring to (win) in Eastbourne and then just the next 250 I play I’m already back in another final. It’d be amazing to win, to go two 250 titles back-to-back. It would be so good for the rest of my year in terms of ranking and seeding. It’d be huge for me.”


The final set against Norrie was mostly straightforward for Fritz, although he briefly trailed 0-15 at 5-13 before reeling off three huge first serves and then winning a wild exchange at the net on match point.


“I figured he’s gonna go after it so I just had to take the racket out of his hands,” the world No. 32 explained. “I really trust myself under pressure.”


Fritz can expect more pressure against one of the best returners and fastest players on tour in de Minaur.


“Ranking-wise we’re two of the best guys under 22. That’s going to be an exciting match and I’m sure we’ll see each other a lot in the future.”


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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