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Tennis News • At Western & Southern Open, Big Servers — Isner, Opelka, etc. — Showing No Signs Of Rust

Reilly Opelka of United States on Day 1 at the 2020 Western & Southern Open.

By Ricky Dimon

Big servers such as John Isner, Reilly Opelka, Milos Raonic, and Kevin Anderson have advanced to the second round of the Cincinnati Masters.

You might suspect that big servers may have somewhat of advantage following five months away from official competition as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. After all, rust is more likely to show up when longer points are played. Players who can consistently end points with one fell swoop, of course, can avoid having to hit an excess amount of forehands, backhands, and volleys.

So far, that has been exactly the case at the Western & Southern Open.

Huge hitters such as John Isner, Reilly Opelka, Milos Raonic, and Kevin Anderson have returned to the court and gone back to the basics to advance at this Masters 1000 event at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Serve. Ace. Service winner. Ace. Serving winner. Hold. Repeat. Etc.

There were a whole lot of aces and holds from Isner on Sunday. The 6’10” American won his first-round match, beating Cincinnati doubles partner Hubert Hurkacz 7-5, 6-4. It is true that Hurkacz also serves big; by comparison, though, Isner’s serve makes the Pole’s seem pedestrian. The world No. 21 doubled Hurkacz’s ace count (10 to five) and saved both of the break points he faced while breaking the world No. 29 twice to prevail in one hour and 39 minutes.

John Isner of the US hits a return to Hubert Hurkacz during their first round match at the Western and Southern Open.

Isner double-faulted only once, won 81 percent of his first-serve points, and won an even more impressive 80 percent of his second-serve points.

Preceding the 16th seed into round two on Saturday were Opelka, Raonic, and Anderson. In another battle between big servers, Sam Querrey was no match for Raonic. The Canadian almost quadrupled Querrey’s ace total (19 to five) while rolling to a 6-4, 6-4 win. Opelka cruised past Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-4, firing 18 aces in only 10 service games. Anderson blasted more aces than everyone — mainly because he actually had to play a final set. The 6’8” South African sent 20 serves clean past Kyle Edmund during a 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3 success.

Anderson ended up losing easily to Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday, but that was hardly a surprise given that Anderson has been struggling physically and was forced to play on back-to-back days after battling Edmund for two hours and 58 minutes.

Milos Raonic of Canada on Day 1 at the 2020 Western & Southern Open.

“I have been playing really well the last few weeks (in practice),” Raonic noted. “Today I’m happy with how I dealt with a lot of things, because there [are] a lot of things out of my control that you can’t mimic in a practice.”

But there is one thing you can mimic anywhere: the serve.

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