Winning a three-setter to claim an ATP Tour title is an impressive accomplishment. Earning two three-set victories in a day to capture a crown is on another level, and that’s exactly what Reilly Opelka did at last year’s Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com to win his second ATP Tour trophy.
The American will compete in Delray Beach again starting on 7 January as he attempts to retain a tour-level title for the first time. He carries plenty of good memories into the first week of the season at the ATP 250.
“It was great [last year]. It’s a home tournament. I’ve been going to the event [since I was] a little kid, since I think [I was] 11, 12 years old. It was cool to win an event that I used to go watch,” Opelka said. “I beat some really good players, and especially the last day was a really unique scenario that doesn’t happen too often.”
Opelka started Championship Sunday last year by saving a match point in the semi-finals against former World No. 3 Milos Raonic, one of the biggest servers on the ATP Tour. Then the American battled past speedy lefty Yoshihito Nishioka for the title.
“I was tested a lot physically and I beat some really good players. It was just a bizarre scenario,” Opelka said. “[It is] definitely one that I won’t forget, since I obviously won the title, but also just because [I won] two matches in one day and the conditions of it were pretty crazy.”
The 23-year-old is certainly comfortable in Delray Beach. In fact, he resides in the city. At 16, Opelka watched countryman Steve Johnson upset top-seeded Tommy Haas. The next year, he recalls seeing American lefty Donald Young advance to the final. In 2018, Opelka made his tournament debut.
The home favourite believes the 2021 Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com field is an impressive one. It includes Raonic, former World No. 1 Andy Murray, American No. 1 John Isner and more.
“The field’s incredible. They have a lot of really great players,” Opelka said. “You’ve got probably one of the most high-level entry fields that they’ve seen. Isner, [Sam] Querrey, Frances [Tiafoe] has won it. There [are three] past champions, so a lot of guys that like playing there.”
Standing 6’11”, one of Opelka’s biggest priorities is taking care of his body. The right-hander came out of this year’s COVID-19 tournament suspension firing at the Western & Southern Open, defeating Diego Schwartzman and Matteo Berrettini to make his first Masters 1000 quarter-final. But a right knee injury hindered him the rest of the year.
That’s why since his final tournament of the year in Antwerp, Opelka has focussed on improving physically.
“I really think my body will be great there [in Delray Beach] because I’ve put in a lot of work and I’ve emphasised my body a lot this off-season,” Opelka said. “I want to really prioritise going into the year 100 per cent healthy.”
As far as his knee goes, the American is confident in the work he has put into getting healthy.
“My knee is doing great. We had to take a lot of time off and spend a lot of time working on it, but it was stubborn and I really needed the three months that I had off, which was nice,” Opelka said. “I’m pretty confident in it moving forward. I really hope it holds up. That is the million-dollar question for me, ‘How [is it] going to hold up?’ I’m confident that it will, but you never know.”