TennisSection previews the 2021 Rome Open as Rafael Nadal (2) meets Reilly Opelka in the Semi-Finals on Saturday May 15th, 2021.
Can the unseeded American Reilly Opelka continue his dream run here at the 2021 Rome Open by defeating the “King of Clay?” Or will Rafael Nadal get the routine win as expected as he seeks to equal Novak Djokovic’s record for Masters-1000 titles? The two men have two hugely contrasting game styles, who will come away with the win and advance to the Final here in Rome?
Rafael Nadal is currently ranked #3 in the ATP world rankings, and is the number two seed here at the 2021 Rome Open. A nine time former champion here, he will be confident of winning his 10th and equaling Novak Djokovic’s record with 36 Masters titles. Universally known as the greatest clay court player in history, he has been struggling on the surface this year and has endured a similarly difficult start to his Rome campaign. Difficult wins over Sinner and Zverev sandwiched a three set win in the Round of 16, pushed to the limit by Denis Shapovalov in a match where he saved multiple match points. While he has been struggling recently, he will be pleased that he has found a way to win on each occasion, and will be confident here over Reilly Opelka, who stunningly had only won two matches on clay before this event.
Reilly Opelka is unseeded here at the 2021 Rome Open, and is currently ranked #47 in the ATP world rankings. The big-serving American has been having a very poor season and was on a six match losing streak until this event. Opelka must be pinching himself, as there is no way that he could have dreamed that he would be in the Semi-Finals in a Masters-1000 event, much less one on this surface where he has badly struggled throughout his career. Astonishingly, he is yet to lose a set here in Rome, defeating Richard Gasquet, Lorenzo Musetti, Aslan Karatsev and Federico Delbonis to reach this point. He was the underdog in each of those matches given the surface, yet found a way to pull through. While he is the huge underdog here against Rafael Nadal, if he is serving well then he can always keep it close.
This will be the first meeting between the two players on the ATP Tour, and their head to head record stands at 0-0. Both men have had completely different routes to the final, with Rafael Nadal largely struggling against difficult opposition, and Reilly Opelka seemingly cruising through. Despite this, there will only be one outcome here and that is a straight sets win for the “King of Clay”. The American has stunned the tennis world with this result, but the run ends here against the greatest clay court player the world has ever seen. With the momentum that Opelka has built along with his huge serve, I would not be surprised to see some very tight sets and even tiebreakers, but expect Nadal to overcome the challenge and continue onwards in search of his 10th title here at the 2021 Rome Open.
Free Tennis Pick and Prediction: Rafael Nadal to win in straight sets.