First-Time Winner Spotlight: Reilly Opelka
Reilly Opelka was down, but never out at the New York Open. The 21-year-old American fought back from a set down in three of his five matches and saved six match points in the second-set tie-break of his semi-final win against top seed John Isner. On Sunday, he came within two points of defeat against qualifier Brayden Schnur, but rallied to win 6-1, 6-7(7), 7-6(7) and earn his first ATP Tour title.
Opelka hammered 156 aces throughout the week, including 43 during the championship match. The milestone moment puts him inside the Top 60 of the ATP Rankings.
The American is also the fourth first-time champion on the ATP Tour in 2019, just seven weeks into the season.
First-Time Winners In 2019
|Alex de Minaur||19||Sydney|
|Juan Ignacio Londero||25||Cordoba|
Afterwards, Opelka spoke to ATPTour.com:
How does it feel to win your first ATP Tour title?
It feels really good to win this event. I didn’t think it was going to come this soon, to be honest.
You lost the first set three times this week and had to win a second-set tie-break in all of those matches. What does that say about you?
I’ve won a lot of three-setters and part of that is just the way my game is. There are a lot of tie-breaks and it comes down to a few points here and there.
You lost your serve twice in the first set of your opening match against Adrian Mannarino. How did you turn that match and your week around?
I made an adjustment on my serve after the first set of that match and it held with me the whole week. There were other adjustments made on my forehand and my return, so I progressed well as the week went on.
This was the second time you played Isner this year. How would you describe what makes that matchup unique?
You know what to expect. I thought we both served unbelievably well and played well from the baseline yesterday. If we both play like that, it just comes down to luck and who guesses right on the big points. There’s no better player that day.
I think this match was a little bit different than our match at the Australian Open because John was the better player in Melbourne. If you look at the scoreboard, he was in control of the whole match and I was lucky to sneak by. In New York, it was slightly in my favour, especially in the third set.
You double faulted on match point in the second-set tie-break today. What are you telling yourself in those moments between points?
You really want to know? [Smiles]. I just tried to keep my mouth shut, but it was tough how that point and the whole match seemed to be going. I felt like I had all the break points and opportunities, and somehow he kept getting himself back in. It almost just felt like his week.
Have you gotten any messages yet from the other American players?
Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both reached out. There’s not much ego with those guys. They’re just stoked to see other Americans doing well.
Thinking back to your first ATP Tour semi-final at the 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open, how would you describe the path that you’ve taken since then to your first title now?
If you look back at 2016, I was a good junior playing at home. No one knew me. I had a big game and swung freely. I had a general idea of how I was winning matches there, but it’s not as in-depth as it is now. My style of play isn’t that much different since then, but I’m more consistent now and there’s more of an understanding to what I’m trying to do.