Rafa Nadal Madrid Open

“Nadal must be wary” Analyst issues warning before Italian Open semi-final

Rafa Nadal will go into his semi-final clash at the Italian Open as the hot favourite but it won’t all be plain sailing against the huge serving American Reilly Opelka according to Tennishead’s statistical expert.

“Rafael Nadal faces this week’s surprise package Reilly Opelka in the 2021 Italian Open semi-finals. Opelka has had an unexpected run this week in Rome, playing by far the best clay court tennis of his life. The key to his success is his booming serve, something Nadal will have to neutralize to be victorious.

“Opelka has a huge edge on serve. In Rome he has won 81% of his first serve points, which is much higher than the 64% Nadal has managed. Opelka is also better on second serves. This week he has won 64% of second serve points, which is 8% more than Nadal. At the Italian Open Opelka is yet to broken. He saved all of the 6 break points he has faced. Nadal might not get many break point chances and will have to be clinical when he gets an opportunity.

Semifinal preview Nadal vs Opelka, Italian Open

“On return the roles are reversed. This week Nadal has won an impressive 45% of return points. On the other hand Opelka has really struggled on return, winning only 30% of return points. Nadal might struggle to make inroads on Opelka’s serve. But he should have a much easier time holding serve than he has in previous rounds. Nadal must still be wary of giving Opelka any break point chances. Opelka has only created 10 break point chances so far this week but has been able to convert 7 of these. One break of serve either way could be enough to decide the set.

“Given Opelka is 2.11m tall, it is no surprise he has an effective serve. But this is also the reason he struggles on return, as he cannot move around the court as well as someone like Nadal. If Nadal can get into points on Opelka’s serve and move him around on his own serve, he will be able to dominate the exchanges. Nevertheless, should Opelka serve as well as he has been this week, it could be quite a tight encounter.”

Luka Elliott has a B Com in Economics & Statistics from the University of Cape Town where his thesis was titled “Engineering Features for Tennis Match Outcome Prediction in a Statistical Learning Framework”. He now writes for Tennishead focussing on how statistics effect the outcome of ATP matches

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.