Jenson Brooksby, Reilly Opelka to meet in Dallas final
A final-set thriller and a historic tiebreak defined two all-American semifinals on Saturday at the Dallas Open, where Jenson Brooksby and Reilly Opelka were victorious and will play for their first title of 2022.
Tour-level tennis has returned to Dallas, on the campus of Southern Methodist University, this week for the first time since 1983, and home successes have been the story at the ATP 250 event: five of the eight quarterfinalists were American, leading to the first all-American semifinal slate at a tour event since 2004. The tournament started with 14 Americans in the 28-player field.
Opelka's 7-6(7), 7-6(22) victory over John Isner in Saturday's first semifinal featured something never before seen in the 32-year history of modern men's tennis. The 24-22 tiebreak was the longest in a tour-level match since the start of the ATP Tour in 1990 and the 13th that Isner and Opelka have played in their 15 career sets against each other.
Opelka saved 10 set points in the tiebreak and needed eight match points to wrap up victory—his fourth overall against Isner in five matches. The No. 2 seed also saved a set point in the first-set tiebreak, in which he won the last four points.
"John was my favorite player growing up as a kid. He still is to this day. I think the world of him. The first time I hit with him, I was only 15 years old, and he's been an unbelievable leader to all the young Americans," Opelka said after the match.
Of the record-setting effort, Opelka added: "I lost track [of the score]. At one point it was 21-all ... that's something I've never seen before, but if it was going to happen, it certainly would have been in this match. It just shows how clutch he is ... he hit some unbelievable spots on his serve down match point."
Opelka hit 39 aces in victory, which is an ATP record for most aces hit in a two-set match.
Brooksby also came through in the clutch in his semifinal win. After leading Marcos Giron by a set and a break, the 2021 ATP Newcomer of the Year saved four match points in a tense final set to reach his second career ATP singles final with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(5) victory.
After trailing 6-4, 4-1, Giron was able to find some of the form that took him to a three-set upset of top seed Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals. He won three straight games to level the set, and five of the first seven points of the ensuing tiebreak to force a decider. Neither player lost serve in the final set—Brooksby saved one break point in his first service game and Giron saved two at 2-2—and Giron's four chances to win the match came in the 12th game.
After saving the four match points against his serve, Brooksby also came from 2-0 down in the deciding tiebreak to win.
“I thought I competed really well,” Brooksby said, “but I just needed to be more positive with myself, which is something I’m working on.”
Brooksby missed the Australian Open after a positive COVID-19 test prior to his intended departure. He started his season at the ATP Challenger event in Columbus, Ohio two weeks ago instead, reaching the semifinals, and will face Opelka for the second time. At a tournament also held indoors, Brooksby beat Opelka in Antwerp, Belgium, last fall in straight sets.
While Brooksby bids for his first ATP singles title in his second final, Opelka seeks his third.
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