Rafael Nadal vs. Reilly Opelka - Their short rivalry explained



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Rafael Nadal vs. Reilly Opelka - Their short rivalry explained

The 21-time Major winner Rafael Nadal will face a giant server Reilly Opelka in the Indian Wells fourth round. In February, Rafa and Reilly should have played in the Acapulco first round, but the American withdrew after two great weeks in Dallas and Delray Beach.

Nadal and Opelka have played one match so far, in the last year's Rome semi-final, when the Spaniard earned a 6-4, 6-4 victory in an hour and 32 minutes. Reilly played well that week, but the king of clay proved too strong at Foro Italico, sealing the deal in straight sets and advancing into the 12th Rome Open final.

Nadal endured one challenging game and secured one break in each set to emerge at the top. Rafa earned the triumph in the more advanced rallies and tamed the rival's serve enough to clinch those two breaks and make the difference.

Rafael Nadal will face Reilly Opelka in the Indian Wells fourth round.

Rafa had to work hard right from the start, saving four break points at 1-2 in the opener with winners and avoiding an early setback. Gathering a boost, Nadal broke Opelka in game five when the American failed to earn enough free points and sprayed a forehand error.

The Spaniard held with a forehand slice winner for a 4-2 advantage and created three break points in the next one. Rafa failed to convert them, and Reilly remained within one break deficit. In game eight, the Spaniard held at love with a service winner and closed the opener with another perfect hold two games later for 6-4 in 50 minutes.

Opelka held at 15 in the second set's opening game after a service winner, and Nadal repeated that for 1-1. The American sent a backhand long in the third game to propel the Spaniard in front, and Rafa held at love to open a 3-1 gap and make a massive step towards the finish line.

Nadal grabbed the sixth game at love for 4-2, and Opelka followed that pace to remain within one break deficit. Rafa fired a service winner in game eight to forge a 5-3 advantage and served for the victory in game ten. From 30-15 down, Nadal claimed three straight points to move over the top and advance into his 12th Foro Italico final.

Opelka will seek his chances in front of the home fans in Indian Wells, hoping to impose his strokes on slow hard court and control the pace in his games with booming serves. Rafa should be the favorite if he solves the rival's initial shot, seeking the 18th consecutive victory this season and a place in the 98th Masters 1000 quarter-final.