Reilly Opelka vs. Denis Shapovalov Odds & Pick: Is the American Undervalued in Australian Open Round 3?
Getty Images. Pictured: Reilly Olpeka
Reilly Opelka vs. Denis Shapovalov
|Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET*
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The aces are sure to be flying on Thursday as two of the more eccentric power-players in the men's game meet in the third round of the Australian Open. Reilly Opelka will look to keep up his hot play in Australia while Shapovalov is still looking for consistency.
Considering the form of both men, does the underdog deserve more love here? Let's have a closer look at this matchup.
Opelka Improving Other Aspects of His Game
For the unfamiliar, Opelka is who we would affectionately refer to as a "servebot," a player who relies on their serve to win the vast majority of points. While the tall American will never shake that stigma with one of the best serves on tour, he's done well over the last two weeks to win points from the baseline.
His last match was no exception. Opelka managed to erase a break deficit in the first set against Dominik Koepfer — an opponent who entered with a win in each of their last three meetings. It was an incredibly rare feat, and to come away with another break to take the set was something to marvel at for a player who's not known for his returning.
Opelka has been piling up big wins for a couple of weeks now in Australia and looking dangerous. He took out Brandon Nakashima in Sydney before falling just short against Andy Murray in an epic three-set affair. He's been using his forehand as a weapon and hanging tough in rallies. That should help even the score here against Shapovalov.
Shapovalov's Road to Third Round Has Been Rocky
While Opelka has breezed through the first two rounds in straight-set affairs, Shapovalov's road to this match has been treacherous. He dropped a set to Laslo Djere — a clay-courter — and struggled to come through in two tight sets. He then blew a double-break lead in the first set against Soonwoo Kwon and went the distance, where he had to dig very deep for the win..
Shapovalov's serve could have been steadier in that match, getting broken four times in the five sets. His unforced errors also piled up (he had 77), but 81 winners would make up for it in the end. Put simply, he's continued playing the sloppy brand of tennis which led to his tumultuous 2021 season. While we know how good the Canadian can be with this type of power and skill, we also sadly know how fragile he is.
The good news here for Shapovalov here is that while his first two matches haven't been the easiest, he does come in on a five-match winning streak dating back to Canada's win at the ATP Cup. That should give him the confidence he needs entering this match.
Opelka's play from the back of the court has been inspiring in the early going, and he is going to be a very tough out here for Shapovalov. His returning is the best it's ever been, and the big man seems very spry entering this one.
While Shapovalov has more than enough best-of-five experience entering this one and fitness isn't the biggest concern, fatigue should certainly play its part here. A graphic on ESPN late in the match with Kwon told us that Shapovalov had actually set a personal record for the number of kilojoules burned in a match in what was an incredibly grueling four-and-a-half hour match.
Opelka will have the fresher legs, and in what is essentially a serving contest, that should make a difference. I also think, even though he's not as strong from the baseline as Shapovalov, that Opelka is playing the cleaner tennis of the two. Judging by his match with Koepfer, he should win more than enough points to pressure the Canadian's serve and negotiate breaks.
This is the value play here, and the only reason Opelka isn't the favorite at this point is he's the less familiar name.
Pick: Opelka +104