The 21-year-old Reilly Opelka opened the season with a tight qualifying loss in Brisbane but things are already looking much better for him in Sydney, qualifying for the main draw and defeating Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4 in 63 minutes for his ninth ATP win and the first since Delray Beach in February last year.
Serving at 73%, the American giant fired 16 aces and he lost eight points behind his booming initial shot, never facing a break point and keeping the pressure on the struggling Spaniard who failed to bring the same numbers in his games.
Reilly created five break chances and he converted one in each set to safely reach the second round and continue where he left at the end of 2018 when he won back-to-back Challenger titles to finish the season inside the top-100.
The youngster found his rhythm right from the start and he broke the Spaniard in game four to open the gap and close the set with a hold at love in game nine. The second set was decided in the opening game when Opelka broke again to move a set and a break up, rattling off five easy holds to complete a great day at the office and enter the last 16.
Sam Querrey had to spend only 51 minutes on the court, leading 6-1, 4-1 when Malek Jaziri decided to retire, unable to recover from a long trip from Pune and finish the match in a regular way. Sam won 24 out of 26 and he dominated on the return as well to grab four breaks from 12 chances, marching towards the finish line when the Tunisian decided he has had enough.
A qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka needed just an hour and 11 minutes to dismiss Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-2 after a great display on both the serve and return, saving two break points he faced once he already had a huge lead and breaking Ryan thrice to wrap up the win in strong fashion.
Nishioka hit the zone from the very first point, serving well and overpowering his rival from the baseline and wasting seven break points before he finally moved ahead with a break in game seven. The Japanese lost just three points on serve in five games and he easily closed the set with a hold at 15 in game 10 for a 6-4.
Ryan suffered two breaks at the beginning of set number two and Yoshihito maintained a high level in the remaining games to move over the top and enter the last 16. The last year's finalist and the home favorite Alex de Minaur is also through to the second round following a 6-4, 6-3 win against Dusan Lajovic in an hour and 21 minutes, struggling a little bit but doing enough to grab the triumph in straight sets and open the title hunt.
Alex saved two out of three break points and he won 40% of the return points, enough to create seven break chances and convert three, setting the second round clash against Opelka on Tuesday. Lajovic saved three break points in the fourth game after some hard hitting and he had the opportunity to move in front in the very next game when he wasted two break points.
They stayed neck and neck until game 10 and it was de Minaur who drew first blood with a break that delivered the opening set for him. Dusan landed a beautiful backhand down the line winner at the start of the second set for an early lead, cementing the break with an ace and looking determined to challenge the Aussie in the rest of the encounter.
Alex broke back in game four after a backhand error from the Serb and he had the upper hand from that point, moving through his service games with no problems and securing another break after a huge forehand error from Lajovic in the eighth game.
Serving for the match, de Minaur fired three winners to take the set 6-3 and make the winning start, heading to Sydney after the quarter-final loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Brisbane. First round results:
[Q]Reilly Opelka (USA) vs Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 6-3 6-4
Alex de Minaur (AUS) vs Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-4 6-3
Sam Querrey (USA) vs Malek Jaziri (TUN) 6-1 4-1 Ret.
[Q]Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) vs Ryan Harrison (USA) 6-4 6-2
[LL]Guido Andreozzi (ARG) vs Matthew Ebden (AUS) 3-6 6-3 6-4