Half of the quarterfinals were washed out on Friday at the ATP Rome Masters, but two men were able to book their place in the final four. One is surely the greatest clay-courter in the history of the sport in Rafael Nadal. The other is the relatively unheralded American Reilly Opelka. But who will be the man to reach Sunday’s final in the Eternal City?
ATP Rome Masters Semifinal Prediction
Rafael Nadal vs Reilly Opelka
Head-to-head: first meeting
Nadal will be the favourite coming into this match, but the Spaniard has been tested so far at the ATP Rome Masters. The Spaniard arrived in the Italian capital after a disappointing start to his clay-court season, notwithstanding his run to the title in Barcelona, and he had to come from a break down in both the first and second sets of his 7-5 6-4 win over Italian young gun Jannik Sinner. He came even closer to defeat in the third round against Denis Shapovalov.
The Canadian came within one point of 6-3 4-0 lead, but Nadal was able to claw his way back into the contest, eventually getting the better of Shapovalov in a third-set tiebreak. Nadal was more comfortable in the quarterfinals, beating sixth seed Alexander Zverev 6-3 6-4 to avenge the defeat he suffered at the German’s hands in Madrid. It was surely a confidence-building performance for the Spaniard and certainly his most assured of the week.
Opelka, meanwhile, is enjoying unquestionably the best week of his career. The American is not known for his clay-court prowess, but the high bounces offered by the courts at the ATP Rome Masters combined with the time the clay has allowed him to unleash from the back of the court has suited his game. He opened his campaign by beating Richard Gasquet 7-5 6-1 and he backed that up by getting the better of the fast-rising Lorenzo Musetti, 6-4 6-4.
That set up a third-round clash with Australian Open semifinalist and Dubai champion Aslan Karatsev. The Russian had upset world #2 Daniil Medvedev in the second round, losing only a handful of games in the process, but he had no answer for the power of Opelka, with the American picking up a 7-6 6-4 win. He then beat Argentinian clay-court specialist and qualifier Federico Delbonis, who had dropped just two sets in reaching the quarterfinals, 7-6 7-5 to reach the last four at a Masters for the first time in his career.
Although Nadal looks to have the match won on paper, it may well prove to be competitive. Opelka will live and die by his first serve, but there is more to his game than just his serve. He can hurt opponents with both his forehand and backhand, although it is the former that is the more effective shot. Still, it is hard to see him getting the better of Nadal. The Spaniard has a largely excellent record against big servers, particularly on the clay. He should be able to enough of an impact against Opelka’s serve to reach the final.
Prediction: Nadal in 3
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