Reilly Opelka Continues Rise With First ATP Title at New York Open

Reilly Opelka Continues Rise With First ATP Title at New York Open

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The second edition of the New York Open concluded on Sunday with a pair of unexpected players engaging in a tense and memorable final that provided enough excitement to make up for the lack of star power.

The organizers of the event, which moved to Long Island last year after 40 years in Memphis, might have hoped for more marketable names to highlight the tournament’s final days to help lift the profile of the tour stop.

After all, neither Reilly Opelka nor Brayden Schnur were among the seven players featured on the promotional posters used to advertise the tournament’s return to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. But Opelka and Schnur provided plenty of buzz for the 3,128 fans who showed up for the final.

The tension peaked with a nerve-racking replay after a challenge on the 15th point of the third-set tiebreaker. On the next point, Opelka finished off Schnur, 6-1, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (7), for his first ATP Tour-level title.

Opelka, 21, has won challenger tournaments at the lower levels of the professional tour, and he won the juniors title at Wimbledon in 2015. But this was the breakthrough he and many of his supporters had anticipated for some time.

“This is definitely my biggest title yet, the one I’m most proud of, for sure,” Opelka said. “It’s been a lot of years coming.”

It did not come easy. Schnur saved five match points and appeared to have a match point of his own when he served what seemed to be an ace at 7-7 in the tiebreaker of the decisive set. But Opelka challenged the call, and the serve was ruled out by perhaps a millimeter.

Schnur, who had never even won an ATP Tour-level match before arriving in New York (he was 0 for 5), then missed his second serve for a double fault. At 8-7, Opelka ripped an ace out wide to win the match.

“That challenge was probably the difference in the match,” Opelka said.

At 6 feet 11 inches with a booming serve, Opelka is expected to rise to No. 56 from No. 89 when the new rankings come out. Sunday’s result will also bolster his status as a potential heir to John Isner, the current top-ranked American male player, whom Opelka has beaten twice in a row.

Opelka downed the top-seeded Isner in their hard-hitting semifinal encounter Saturday night as the two set a record with 81 combined aces in a three-set match. That was a repeat of Opelka’s surprise victory over the 6-10 Isner in the first round of the Australian Open last month.

Opelka’s close victory on the black wooden courts at the Coliseum denied Schnur, a 23-year-old from Canada, what would have been an even more improbable victory.

A qualifier with a head cold, Schnur arrived in New York last week without a guaranteed spot in the draw.

He had reached a career-high ranking of 154th leading up to the New York Open, but he nearly didn’t get to play a single point here. He was granted the last alternate spot in the qualifying draw, and he won two matches there to advance to the main draw. There he upset the third-seeded Steve Johnson and the sixth-seeded Sam Querrey as he earned four straight victories to reach the final.

Though generally unknown, Schnur, a former college player at the University of North Carolina who was born in Pickering, Ontario, has one attribute that will endear him to those who want pro tennis to speed up: He does not bounce the ball before serving. Most players bounce it at least a few times, and some, like Rafael Nadal, sometimes bounce it repeatedly, to the chagrin of some opponents and spectators.

Schnur stands at the baseline, waits for his opponent to get into the ready position, and then simply tosses the ball into the air and slams away. He started doing it that way, he said, while playing on the uneven grass at warm-up tournaments ahead of Wimbledon. Schnur said the unpredictable bounces left him scrambling to catch up to the ball and adversely affected his rhythm.

The emotions of the breakthrough week seemed to catch up to Schnur on Sunday as he fought back tears in his postmatch speech to fans and later during his news conference.

“Only a handful of people know how hard I really worked for this,” he said. “I’m not the most talented guy out on the court.”

Schnur’s and Opelka’s paths to the final were relatively smooth, as the Open’s field of players didn’t include many of the world’s top-ranked individuals. But attendance was up compared with last year, according to Josh Ripple, the tournament director, both over all and for the final; in last year’s final, Kevin Anderson beat Querrey.

“We did better by every metric,” Ripple said, “including attendance and revenue, and 2020 will be the pivotal year for us.”

If Opelka comes back, he probably will make it onto the poster.

Source link

About The Author

Momizat Team specialize in designing WordPress themes ... Momizat Team specialize in designing WordPress themes

Related posts

Leave a Reply