The Serve-bot broke down.
Hard-hitting Reilly Opelka picked the worst time of the year to have his worst service game of the season. And it cost the 22nd-seeded American, with Lloyd Harris pulling out a 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 fourth-round win at the U.S. Open.
The 6-foot-11 Opelka had beaten Harris in a final-set tiebreak in the third round in Toronto; but Monday he managed just 24 aces while his foe hit 36.
His aces, unreturned serves, first serves in and first serve points won were all below his season averages and his worst at this Open — that’s why he’s headed home from Flushing Meadows.
“A little out of character for me to serve that poorly throughout the whole match, but he served great,” said Opelka, who hit 12 aces in claiming the first set, only to get progressively worse as the match got away from him.
Opelka hit just five, four and three in dropped every set from there on.
“I wasn’t hitting my spots. Yeah, it was an uncharacteristic serving day for me. That changed the whole thing. … I had to have been around 50 percent first serves in, at best. He’s long, 6-4, great athlete, explosive. He’s just a great athlete. Then throw in me serving probably one of the worst serving performances I’ve had, the worst serving performance I have this summer, no doubt about it.”
There was little doubt in this one from the second set on.
Opelka pulled out a first-set tiebreaker 8-6, and was on serve in the second until getting broken in the final game on a backhand winner to drop the set 6-4.
From there he lost the plot. Harris took over and cruised into the quarters versus No. 4 Alexander Zverev, who beat Italian Jannik Sinner 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7).
“Reilly is always going to come with a lot of big serves, that’s for sure,” Harris said. “I think I handled it well after going down that first set. I held my composure.”
Opelka joined Jenson Brooksby and Frances Tiafoe to give the U.S. three men in the fourth round of a major for the first time since 2011. Brooksby was the last one left, facing No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Monday night.
“We have 14 or 15 Americans in the top 100, so we’ve got a huge group of guys there; we just don’t have the world beaters,” Opelka said. “But I think Brooksby is our best, Brooksby and [Sebastian] Korda are our best top candidates for maybe winning a Slam of the young guys. … I feel like it’s just a matter of time before one of those can break through. My best bet would be on Korda or Brooksby.”