Monday 19 August 2019

Wawrinka dumped out as giant-killer Opelka 'goes big'

Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka. Photo: Tony O'Brien/Reuters
Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka. Photo: Tony O'Brien/Reuters

Charlie Eccleshare

The top half of the men's draw is increasingly resembling a celebrity-free zone, after Stan Wawrinka became the latest big name to be bundled out yesterday.

Following Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev's shock Wimbledon exits on Monday, Wawrinka was left frazzled by the brute force of 6ft 11in American Reilly Opelka, who served 23 aces in a 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 second-round victory.

Wawrinka's exit leaves former Wimbledon finalists Kevin Anderson and Milos Raonic, as well as the Canadian rising star Felix Auger Aliassime, as the men most likely to stop Novak Djokovic's charge - or quite possibly procession - to the final. All three of Raonic, Anderson and Auger Aliassime won through to the third round yesterday.

As for Wawrinka, he will surely not be the last to suffer at the hands of Opelka - the joint-tallest man in tennis history and a former junior Wimbledon champion. Still only 21, Opelka is ranked No 63 and is so tall that he had to duck to enter the interview room yesterday, having been unable to fit on his hotel bed in Eastbourne last week.

On the court he showed impressive poise to recover from two sets to one down and enough adroitness from the baseline to break the Wawrinka serve three times.

Delighted

"At the end he went for it. He went bigger than me and he deserved to win," Wawrinka said.

Opelka was delighted by the way he battled past an opponent who, in the closing stages, was reading his ferocious serve.

"He had break points almost every game," Opelka said. "I played the big points really well on my serve, and that's what good players do, they make you find ways to win that you're not comfortable with."

Opelka's vociferous support team would call out "dinger" (Opelka's word for ace) every time their man banged a serve beyond Wawrinka. They should get plenty more opportunities to enact the routine in Opelka's next match, which sees him take on Raonic.

An equally massive server - and dodgy returner - the pair could set a record for the most aces, and fewest rallies, in a Wimbledon match.

Raonic clocked up 31 aces in his comfortable 7-6, 7-5, 7-6 win over Robin Haase. A niggling calf injury required treatment, but he played the injury down afterwards.

Auger Aliassime (18), overcame losing the second set to romp home 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 against the French qualifier Corentin Moutet. With another French youngster, Ugo Humbert, next, Auger Aliassime looks well placed to set up a fourth-round match against Djokovic.

Anderson overcame Janko Tipsarevic in four sets, and there were wins for exciting Russian pair Karen Khachanov - against Feliciano Lopez - and Daniil Medvedev.

Djokovic sailed smoothly into the third round after a trouble-free straight-sets win over Denis Kudla, 6-3 6-2 6-2 win on Centre Court.

Djokovic, going for a fifth Wimbledon crown, will undoubtedly face sterner tests, but maybe not until the semi-finals after the draw opened up favourably for him.

He faces Hubert Hurkacz in the next round, a Polish player who is enjoying his best ever grand slam run.

The writing was on the wall for Kudla when Djokovic won the opening five games, though a mini fightback did at least delay the Serbian.

Djokovic, though, had the Kudla serve sussed and broke it regularly to set up the easiest of wins in 93 minutes. (© Daily Telegraph)

Telegraph.co.uk

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