‘It’s probably a fluke’ – Reilly Opelka says he’s as surprised as anyone by clay success

Reilly Opelka says his success on clay in Rome this week is ‘probably just a fluke’ after he marched into the semi-finals.

The American ace beat Federico Delbonis 7-5, 7-6 on Friday to move into his first ever Masters semi-final – where he will face Rafael Nadal.

Clay has usually been the world number 47’s worst surface, so he appears as shocked as anyone by his results this week.

“I am surprised,” Opelka said on court after the match. “Clay is not really my thing.

“[It is] not much of an American thing. It is probably just a fluke, but I’ll run with it.

“I’ve definitely served well. I hit my spots really well today, especially in big moments. I think that has been critical. I have stayed calm [and on] big points, I have delivered.

Opelka’s explosion of form in Rome has caught many by surprise after his poor start to the year, and he has looked almost unplayable at times during the tournament.

He, though, says there is no great mystery about it – he is simply starting to benefit from hard work.

“I’ve made some adjustments on my serve recently and I think it’s starting to pay off. I’m seeing some improvements, so I don’t think it’s coincidence that things are starting to click now.

“I did get COVID, I wish I could use that as an excuse. But the first 10 weeks of the year I just didn’t play well. It wasn’t COVID related at all.”

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