By Herman Wood
(July 28, 2021) ATLANTA -In daytime matches from the round of sixteen on Wednesday, Taylor Fritz took out Steve Johnson 6-7(5-7), 6-4, 6-1. Fritz will play Reilly Opelka in the Quarter Finals.
In the round of 16, Jordan Thompson served Petter Gojowczyk out of the tournament. Thompson took the first set in a slightly extended tie breaker, 8-6. Through the first set, Thompson had a much easier time holding serve with eleven aces and only had to save one break point. Gojowczyk saved four to get to the tie breaker. The second set was a similar proceeding, with Thompson continuing to dominate with his serve and closing the match out 7-6(6), 6-4. He will play Brandon Nakashima next.
The first evening match featured top seed Milos Raonic taking on Brandon Nakashima. Nakashima, only nineteen years old, had a tall order with the big serving Raonic.
The match opened with quick and easy holds for two games. Nakashima was able to fight off a break point in his second service game. Raonic appeared to have some rust, missing a few easy shots. The third service game for Nakashima saw him dig a 0-40 hole, mostly of his own doing, that Raonic only needed two tries to secure the break.
Raonic did not make the best of getting the early break. On his serve, down 0-40 and a time violation warning, a couple of big serves partially filled the hole he had dug. Unfortunately for him, it turned out to be too deep, bringing the set back on serve. A hold from Nakashima and Raonic had to hold to stay in the set serving 4-5. A hold seemed to help Raonic find his groove as he continued to knock rust off with a second break of Nakashima that provided the opportunity to serve out the set.
A 137 mph serve emphatically punctuated the end of the first set 7-5 for Raonic!
A very impressive 6-3 set from Nakashima brought the match even at a set apiece. Raonic helpfully donated some timely double faults. Nakashima kept the momentum rolling with a break on Raonic’s first service game of the final set. In a very business-like fashion, Nakashima lifted his game to bring the deciding set to 5-3, and Raonic had to serve to stay in the tournament. An Ace, a service winner, a Nakashima return winner, another Raonic ace, an error from Nakashima and it was up to Nakashima to serve it out. The crowd was behind him as he walked out to serve, perhaps recognizing his effort from last night. The first point seemed to find Raonic reaching for a different level, not necessarily bigger, but showing more consistency. Nakashima had momentum though, going big for winners or shots that forced an error, finally getting to match point. A bit of nerves may have caused him to spray two easy backhands long to keep Raonic alive. The veteran Raonic kept rolling the ball to Nakasima’s errant backhand to secure a break to get to five all in the deciding set.
After holds to get to the tiebreaker, it was really all Nakashima until he was up 6-3.
Serving, Nakashima sent a near winner cross court, only to see Raonic run it down and blister a winner onto the line. Nakashima seemed to be a bit impressed, though unbothered. He finished the match with a service winner and appreciative applause from the Atlanta crowd, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).
The final singles match featured two Americans, qualifier Bjorn Frantangelo versus number four seed Reilly Opelka. Opelka prevailed in their last match in three tight sets in 2018. This time, Opelka held off Frantangelo in straight sets, 7-6 (3), 7-6(4). Opelka will take on Fritz in the Quarterfinals.
Thursday’s night session should prove entertaining, with John Isner taking on Jack Sock in the early match and Cameron Norrie playing Nick Kyrgios in the last singles match of the day. Isner is an Atlanta favorite. Kyrgios delighted the crowd in his opening match against Kevin Anderson with underarm serves and tweeners off of Anderson lobs while consulting individuals in the front row for strategy and advice.