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Game of aces helps Eubanks reach all-American Newport SFs

  • Posted: Jul 19, 2024

Who doesn’t love a game of aces?

After pitching a shutout at 3-all in the third set against Australian Aleksandar Vukic, Christopher Eubanks held on for a tight 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(3) win Friday at the Infosys Hall of Fame Open to advance to his first tour-level semi-final since he won his maiden title on grass in Mallorca last year.

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“You step to the line, the first one goes in, you have a good rhythm,” the American said in his on-court interview at the grass-court ATP 250 in Newport. “The second one goes in and the mind starts to wonder, ‘Oh, can I do it again?’

“You pump the third one and then all of a sudden the crowd starts to get behind you. I knew I was going for two first serves on that 40/0 point. Luckily I made the first one and I gave the crowd a little fist pump.”

The former Top 30 player has fallen to No. 128 in the PIF ATP Rankings after recently dropping points from Mallorca and from his quarter-final run at Wimbledon last year. He is 8-15 on the season.

Eubanks, who hit 13 aces and seven double faults according to Infosys ATP Stats, saved six of eight break points he faced. The 28-year-old has climbed to No. 105 in the PIF ATP Live Rankings, and will re-enter the Top 100 should he advance to the final.

Eubanks on Saturday will face his Olympics teammate, second-seeded Marcos Giron, who defeated Australian Alex Bolt 6-4, 6-1 to set an all-American semi-final line-up in Newport for the first time since 1985 (Gullikson, Pate, Sadri and Mayotte).

Playing in front of mentor Andre Agassi, who is in town for this weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Giron saved all three break points he faced to move into his seventh semi-final (2-4 record) and third this year (Dallas and Delray Beach).

“Four Americans in the semi-finals is something we love to see, I’m pumped that we’re here,” Giron said. “I’ve known Chris for a long time so it’s great to see him stepping up this week and playing really well and I’m really proud to be teammates with him the next couple of weeks.”

Giron, now 18-17 on the season, moved back to his career-high mark of No. 44 in the PIF ATP Live Rankings after defeating Bolt in a first-time Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting.

In Saturday’s other semi-final, #NextGenATP star Alex Michelsen will take on big-serving Reilly Opelka, who has struck form this week after an extended layoff due to injury.

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Zverev tops Zhang in Hamburg for season-leading 43rd win

  • Posted: Jul 19, 2024

Alexander Zverev’s mission to win back-to-back titles in his hometown continued apace on Friday evening at the Hamburg Open.

The top seed and defending champion eased past Zhang Zhizhen 6-4, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals for the fourth time at the clay-court ATP 500. With his 66-minute triumph, his 43rd of the season, Zverev moved clear of World No. 1 Jannik Sinner for the most tour-level wins in 2024.

Zverev powered 22 winners, including 10 aces, according to Infosys ATP Stats, in a dominant victory against the eighth-seeded Zhang. The manner of victory for the No. 4 in the PIF ATP Rankings was in stark contrast to his three-set battle against Hugo Gaston on Thursday evening, when he appeared to struggle with a knee injury he sustained earlier this month at Wimbledon.

“I’m extremely pleased with the level of tennis today,” said Zverev in his post-match interview. “I think it was a big step up from yesterday, but obviously a very different match as well. I’m happy to be in the semi-finals, but I don’t want to stop here, I want to continue and hopefully defend my title here in Hamburg.”

Zverev has this year reached the final at Roland Garros, the semi-finals at the Australian Open and won an ATP Masters 1000 crown in Rome. Later this month, he will begin his defence of his Olympic crown at Paris 2024. The 27-year-old was asked how his season so far has compared to 2021, when he finished the year with 59 tour-level wins and won six titles.

“2021 was strange, because I started the season OK, I was playing well, but then the second half of the season, I barely lost a match,” he recalled. “So I hope if it goes like that this year, especially with the Olympics and especially with the US Open, I’ll be the happiest person on the planet. We’ll see how it goes. I’m satisfied with the level of tennis I’m playing right now, but it takes a lot of hard work to continue on this path and on this journey.”

The next assignment for Zverev in his Hamburg title defence is a last-four clash against Pedro Martinez. The Spaniard rallied past fourth seed Francisco Cerundolo 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 to reach his first ATP 500 semi-final.

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In the bottom half of the draw, third seed Sebastian Baez and fifth seed Arthur Fils will play their maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head clash for a spot in the championship match. Baez pulled through for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory against Luciano Darderi . He has now won a Tour-leading 23 matches on clay this year.

Fils was leading Holger Rune 6-4, 4-1 when the second-seeded Dane was forced to retire from the pair’s quarter-final clash due to a right knee injury. The #NextGenATP Frenchman Fils, who also reached the last four last year, is up three spots to a career-high No. 25 in the PIF ATP Live Rankings as a result of his Hamburg run so far. Should he win the title in Germany, he would crack the Top 20 in the PIF ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday.

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4-hour workout! Nadal grinds down Navone in Bastad QF marathon

  • Posted: Jul 19, 2024

Rafael Nadal passed a stern physical test from Mariano Navone with the help of some trademark mental strength on Friday at the Nordea Open in Bastad.

The former No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings battled to a 6-7(2), 7-5, 7-5 triumph against Navone in an absorbing four-hour quarter-final at the clay-court ATP 250. Nadal struggled to maintain his best level for long periods in the match but dug in superbly after letting slip a 5-2 lead in the deciding set to reach his first tour-level semi-final since Wimbledon 2022.

“I lost for some moments my concentration, but I was able to hold physically until the end,” said Nadal in his on-court interview. “That is so important for me. Let’s see how I am tomorrow, but today I am alive and in the semi-finals, so that’s very important.”

Nadal and Navone played out three topsy-turvy sets, all of which lasted more than an hour, in their maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting. In the first, Nadal rallied from a double-break down at 1-4 to force a tie-break, which Navone composed himself to clinch in style. In the second, it was Navone’s turn to recover a double-break deficit from 0-3, but he was unable to stop Nadal from clinching his third, decisive break of the set in the 11th game.

The World No. 36 Navone appeared to have taken control again early in the third set, when he broke Nadal’s serve in the second game for a 2-0 lead. Then came the Nadal charge, as the 92-time tour-level champion reeled off five straight games, before Navone again recovered from a double break down to level at 5-5. Finally, after notching his 10th break of Navone’s serve in the match in the 11th game of the decider, Nadal held firm behind his delivery to snatch his 10th tour-level victory of 2024.

“There were a lot of changing dynamics in every single set,” said Nadal. “For moments, he was in control. For moments, I was in control. But at the end, no one was in control! That’s true, and I had a good chance in the second with 3-0. Then I was very close to losing the match in the second set.

“In the third [I was ahead] again with 5-2, but he’s a great fighter and he played a great match. I wish him all the very best for the rest of the season.”

Nadal is this week competing in his first tour-level event since his first-round defeat to Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros in May. The 38-year-old is now on an eight-match winning streak in Bastad, where he won the title on his previous appearance in 2005. He will take on Duje Ajdukovic in the semi-finals after the Croatian qualifier downed Thiago Monteiro 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

More to follow…

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With 'dark clouds' gone, Eubanks eyes late-season surge

  • Posted: Jul 19, 2024

After losing in the first round of Wimbledon, Christopher Eubanks’s PIF ATP Ranking fell from No. 62 to No. 128 on Monday. But just two days later, the American had a big smile on his face at the Infosys Hall of Fame Open after reaching the quarter-finals of the grass-court event with a win against #NextGenATP American Ethan Quinn.

“It’s been a while. For sure it’s been a while since I had that feeling of putting together a good quality win and definitely it’s been even longer since being in a quarter-final,” Eubanks told ATPTour.com. “So it feels good to finally be able to kind of piece together a match that maybe I didn’t play my best for the entirety of the match. But I was able to put it together and just continue to compete.

“If you haven’t been winning, it feels as though a lot of things constantly go against you. Today kind of felt good to be able to kind of come up with the goods when I needed it. And to end the match with the win was pretty big.”

A year ago, Eubanks was enjoying the biggest high of his career. After a tremendous start to 2023 in which he made his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final in Miami, claimed his maiden ATP Tour title in Mallorca and reached his first major quarter-final at Wimbledon, he proved he could compete with the very best players in the world.

At the start of 2023, Eubanks had never cracked the world’s Top 100. By the end of July he reached a career-high World No. 29 and was receiving massive international attention.

But after reaching last year’s Atlanta quarter-finals, Eubanks did not win consecutive matches again until Halle last month.

“It’s pretty difficult, that’s for sure. It’s definitely not easy to try to look at the positive side when things aren’t going your way,” Eubanks said. “But I think [it is about] understanding that this is just part of the Tour, it’s not something that’s super specific to me. There are tonnes of players who maybe, throughout the course of their career, have different ebbs and flows, of winning and losing.”

Watch Highlights: Eubanks’ R2 Newport Win

In the moment, it was easy for Eubanks to think he was the only one this was happening to. But many players have ups and downs.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. When you’re winning a lot, you don’t think much about it. When you’re not winning a lot, it certainly feels like the weight of the world can be on your shoulders,” Eubanks said. “But I think putting things in perspective this past week, and just understanding, ‘Hey, this happens to everybody on Tour at some point’. It’s just continuing to control what I can control, which is just the effort I put on the practice court, the effort I put in the matches.

“Continuing to fight and just fighting in matches is probably the hardest thing to do when you’re not playing well, you’re not winning. But that’s the only thing I can control. If I continue to fight, I continue to put myself in those situations, hopefully, eventually, the hard work will pay off and good things will happen.”

In Halle, Eubanks had “a really cool” conversation with Nuno Borges, who last year won the Phoenix ATP Challenger Tour event before enduring an extended patch of tough results. The Portuguese player felt like he was a much better player than he was when he triumphed in Arizona, but the wins were not coming.

Borges kept working hard, made the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open and successfully defended his Phoenix crown.

“When I heard that from him, it made me feel a lot better, because I feel the same way,” Eubanks said. “I feel like I’m a better player than I was a year ago, but I’m just not putting together wins.”

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For much of Eubanks’ career, if things were not going great, he was able to drop down to the ATP Challenger Tour to try to string together wins and regain his confidence. It was tougher to do that as a Top 30 player in the world. Just three weeks ago, he was World No. 42.

But in a way, losing in straight sets in the first round of Wimbledon to Quentin Halys was a burden removed from Eubanks’ shoulders. There are no more thoughts about a huge chunk of points to defend in the future.

“I will say after Wimbledon, it did feel like, ‘Oh, wow, I don’t have to worry about those two weeks hanging over my head’. Because after Wimbledon last year, you play the US Open and I put together I think one win in Shanghai but didn’t win that many matches after that. You don’t really think that much about it,” Eubanks said. “But then the beginning of this year started, I got a good win in Australia and then not many wins after that. You realise, ‘Oh no, clay-court season is coming’, and then it’s like that dark cloud of what comes after the clay-court season is obviously the grass, which was big for me.

“It definitely feels like a bit of a weight is off my shoulders, I can just kind of focus on playing tennis now and to find the form that kind of got me that success that I found last year.”

Last month the 28-year-old served for a place in the Halle semi-finals against Zhang Zhizhen. On one hand, that was a big opportunity to earn plenty of points at an ATP 500 event. But despite the disappointment, it was a positive sign that Eubanks put himself in that position against the top player.

Eubanks already has an opportunity to make a move this week in Newport, where he is trying to claim his first title of the season.

“There’s a lot of ground to make up, which is the exciting part for me. Now having whatever feels like a dark cloud off, that weight off my shoulders, now I can just find my form and just play my way,” Eubanks said. “At least I have an opportunity to play my way into good form. I think that the future’s looking bright if I had to kind of put it into words.

“I’m really excited about what these next few months, the remaining part of the year holds for me. I truly believe that I can find some of that form I found last year to kind of get myself back to where I know I can be. At the end of the day I’ve just got to continue to put in the work and just trust it’s going to happen.”

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Saville/Vukic save MP to reach Newport SFs

  • Posted: Jul 18, 2024

Luke Saville and Aleksandar Vukic saved a match point Thursday to upset second seeds Julian Cash and Robert Galloway at the Infosys Hall of Fame Open.

The Aussies earned a 6-4, 6-7(3), 13-11 victory to reach the semi-finals after fending off all six break points they faced, according to Infosys ATP Stats. Saville and Vukic, who saved a match point at 9/10 in the Match Tie-break, will next meet sixth seeds Andre Goransson and Sem Verbeek or Americans Mackenzie McDonald and Alex Michelsen.

In the top half of the draw, Indians Anirudh Chandrasekar and Arjun Kadhe defeated Christian Harrison and Vasil Kirkov 6-4, 1-6, 10-7 while Robert Cash and James Tracy won the all-American clash against Evan King and Reese Stalder 7-6(6), 7-5.

Second seeds cruise in Hamburg
Home favourites and defending champions Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz made a confident start to their title defence on Thursday at the Hamburg Open.

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/07/18/17/19/puetz-krawietz-hamburg-2024-thursday.jpg” style=”width:100%;” alt=”Tim Puetz/Kevin Krawietz” />
Tim Puetz and Kevin Krawietz in first-round action on Thursday at the Hamburg Open. Credit: Hamburg Open ATP500/Mathias Schulz

The second-seeded duo triumphed 6-1, 6-4 against Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Vijay Sundar Prashanth after converting three of six break points they earned. Krawietz and Puetz, who are chasing their first tour-level title since their 2023 triumph at the ATP 500, will take on fifth seeds Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen in the quarter-finals.

Fabien Reboul and Edouard Roger-Vasselin became the first semi-finalists in Hamburg this year by defeating Lloyd Glasspool and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 3-6, 10-6. Despite losing out in an epic third point of the match, during which they displayed some remarkable defence to force Glasspool and Rojer to hit seven smashes, Reboul and Roger-Vasselin ultimately prevailed with a strong Match Tie-break display.

Top seeds make great escape in Bastad
At the Nordea Open, Gonzalo Escobar and Aleksandr Nedovyesov kept their bid for a second ATP Tour crown of the year alive with a dramatic quarter-final triumph against Federico Coria and Taro Daniel. The top-seeded Escobar and Nedovyesov saved a match point at 8/9 in the Match Tie-break before wrapping a 4-6, 6-3, 11-9 triumph at the clay-court ATP 250.

Manuel Guinard and Gregoire Jacq will be the semi-final opponents in Sweden for Estoril champions Escobar and Nedovyesov. In the only other doubles match of the day, third seeds Orlando Luz and Rafael Matos defeated Pavel Kotov and Piotr Matuszewski 6-3, 7-6(4). The Brazilians will play star wild card duo Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud in the last four.

Humbert/Martin cause QF upset in Gstaad
Ugo Humbert and Fabrice Martin overcame Jamie Murray and Adam Pavlasek 7-6(3), 6-2 on Thursday to become the only unseeded pair to reach the semi-finals at the EFG Swiss Open Gstaad. The French duo saved both break points they faced, according to Infosys ATP Stats, en route to downing the top-seeded Murray and Pavlasek in 74 minutes.

A day after saving three match points in their opening-round win, Petros Tsitsipas and Stefanos Tsitsipas let slip two match points as eighth seeds Andre Begemann and Victor Cornea ensured they would be Humbert and Martin’s semi-final opponents. The German-Romanian duo won four straight points from 7/9 in the Match Tie-break to defeat the Tsitsipas brothers 7-6(3), 3-6, 11-9.

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/07/18/17/32/begemann-cornea-gstaad-2024-thursday.jpg” style=”width: 100%;” alt=”Victor Cornea/Andre Begemann” />

Victor Cornea and Andre Begemann defeat Petros Tsitsipas and Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday in Gstaad. Photo Credit: Fabian Meierhans/EFG Swiss Open Gstaad 2024

What to know about the 2024 ATP Doubles Trial implemented this week in Hamburg, Gstaad and Newport

  • Singles versus doubles team matches in the first round whenever possible by increasing the number of doubles seeded teams to 8 (up from 4)
  • 21 seconds between all points
  • 60-second changeovers with a time call after 40 seconds. Points should start at the 60-second mark at the latest
  • Free crowd movement
  • Doubles-only court (when possible)
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Michelsen reaches Newport SFs, surges to 2nd in Jeddah Race

  • Posted: Jul 18, 2024

#NextGenATP Alex Michelsen is enjoying deja vu at the Infosys Hall of Fame Open, where he is into his second tour-level semi-final after defeating Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday.

A year on since his dream run in Newport, reaching the final in just his second ATP Tour event, the 19-year-old American is aiming to go one step further to claim his maiden tour-level title.

Michelsen was squeaky clean from the baseline and showed soft hands up at the net to follow yesterday’s victory against 2022 champion Maxime Cressy. The third-youngest player in the Top 100 of the PIF ATP Rankings, Michelsen’s lone break of serve in each set was enough to secure a one-hour, 25-minute victory.

“I played two pretty ridiculous return games, like I did against Cressy. It’s like deja vu, two four-and-four matches. Super happy with the win,” said Michelsen, who leads 2-0 in his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with Kovacevic, having also beaten the 25-year-old in Geneva this year.

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Following his quarter-final win, the third seed is up two places to second in the PIF ATP Live Race To Jeddah. The California native is seeking a return trip to the 20-and-under Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF, which runs from 18-22 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Michelsen next faces Reilly Opelka, who downed Mackenzie McDonald 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 after firing 27 aces, according to Infosys ATP Stats.

Opelka, competing in his first ATP Tour event since 2022 Washington, dropped just six points behind his first serve in what was his third consecutive deciding-set win. The former World No. 17, currently No. 1188 in the PIF ATP Rankings, is the lowest-ranked semi-finalist in the ATP Tour era (since 1990).

In other Newport action, second seed Marcos Giron polished off a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory against Benoit Paire to reach the quarter-finals. Giron and Paire’s second-round match was suspended due to darkness Wednesday with the Frenchman leading 6-4, 1-0. Giron, 30, tallied five consecutive games from 1-4 in the third set to survive. The American is now tied at his career-high No. 44 in the PIF ATP Live Rankings.

Did You Know?
Six Americans reached the Newport quarter-finals, marking the most players from one nation in an ATP Tour quarter-final round since seven Frenchmen did so in 2009 (Lyon). It marks the most Americans in an ATP Tour quarter-final round since 2008 Delray Beach (six).

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'Not always beautiful tennis,' but Felix sets Gstaad QF with Berrettini

  • Posted: Jul 18, 2024

Third seed Felix Auger-Aliassime is up and running at the EFG Swiss Open Gstaad, where on Thursday the Canadian defeated 2017 finalist Yannick Hanfmann 7-6(6), 6-2.

Auger-Aliassime is into his fourth quarter-final of the season, three of which have come on clay, including a runner-up finish in Madrid. The World No. 18 in the PIF ATP Rankings is seeking his maiden title on that surface.

A slow start was not enough to deter the 23-year-old, who raised his level after erasing three set points in the opening set. Auger-Aliassime saved a set point on serve at 4-5 and again at 5-6 before gaining the advantage in the first-set tie-break, during which he trailed 1/4 and won three consecutive points from 5/6.

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“It was a tough start from me. With the conditions, the wind, the altitude. I was glad I was able to come back in the first set, that was key,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It was not always beautiful tennis. Sometimes big mistakes on both sides, but in the end to get that one was crucial for me today.

“I started serving better after my first game. Returning also, finding the right position. I was testing things out in the first set… It was good to come back. It was good to find solutions.”

Up next for the five-time tour-level titlist is sixth seed and 2018 champion Matteo Berrettini, who raced past Daniel Elahi Galan 6-4, 6-2. The Italian leads Auger-Aliassime 4-2 in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series, with Friday’s encounter marking their first match on clay.

Brazilian qualifier Gustavo Heide earned his first Top 50 victory by upsetting second seed Ugo Humbert 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3. Heide, 22, is into his first tour-level quarter-final and will next face fellow qualifier Quentin Halys, who overcame Lukas Klein 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-4. 

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After curbing enthusiasm, Opelka makes sudden impact in Newport return

  • Posted: Jul 18, 2024

Through two matches at the Infosys Hall of Fame Open in Newport, Reilly Opelka does not seem to have skipped a beat despite missing nearly two years of action. On Wednesday, the big-serving American powered past tricky grass-court foe and defending champion Adrian Mannarino in three sets to reach the quarter-finals.

Most noticeable at the ATP 250 has not been a particular aspect of the home favourite’s game, but the good spirits in which he has been around the grounds of his first tour-level event since August 2022 in Washington. Just weeks after that tournament, Opelka underwent surgery on his hip.

“The hip was the best thing that happened. It was the easiest surgery, it improved my tennis,” Opelka told ATPTour.com. “I can sit further into my right leg. It changed. It was a minor surgery, kind of. I had a tumorous growth in there that we had to dig out and while he did that he improved the shape of the joint.”

Good news, right? Great news, really, making one of the biggest servers in history even more dangerous. But in early 2023 Opelka underwent right wrist surgery and that is where the complications began.

“I feel really good 1721389891,” Opelka said Wednesday. “If you asked me two months ago, I would have told you terrible.”

The wrist surgery proved unsuccessful, which has kept Opelka out ever since.

“When you’re in a sling with your elbow immobilised and the cast up to [the upper arm] for five months, I couldn’t even straighten my arm. So imagine for a tennis player if you can’t even straighten your arm,” Opelka said. “I was just having pain all the time in my arm, my shoulder, my neck, my nerve. Flew all over the world to see specialists. I was in Germany to see a doctor. Saw a guy in Belgium, saw a guy in Dallas, saw a guy in Atlanta, saw a guy in L.A., saw a guy in Vegas.

“I went all over the world tirelessly trying to see anyone and everyone that could try to help. So I’ve been traveling the last eight months just seeing every specialist you can possibly imagine, throwing the kitchen sink at this thing.”

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/07/15/23/12/opelka-newport-2024-monday.jpg?w=100%25&hash=45793A3D45F65C1F933A4E452B55E736″ style=”width:100%;” alt=”Reilly Opelka” />
Photo Credit: Kyle Prudhomme/International Tennis Hall of Fame
The former No. 17 in the PIF ATP Rankings played an ATP Challenger Tour event in Charlottesville last October, but the pain did not subside. But he said, “I’m trending a lot better”.

A positive for Opelka is that he has had plenty of time to focus on his hobbies, which he greatly enjoyed doing while competing on the ATP Tour before his injuries. Those hobbies include art and fashion.

“That’s been the thing that has kept me the most sane and stimulated. Been around some characters. I really like characters. Artists are such special people to hang around. That’s not a job you pick, it picks you. I think it takes a special guy or woman to be an artist,” Opelka said. “I’ve been around some different minds, really smart, nice people. That’s the best way to explain it.”

On the biggest character he has been around, Opelka said: “In two years, the amount of just wackjobs I’ve met, some good, some bad. I can’t even begin to tell you. I feel like they’ve turned me into Larry David.”

In a way, nothing really changed for Opelka. He did not need to go searching for something to do because he already traveled to art galleries and fashion shows when he was competing.

“Nothing new. That was the beauty of it,” Opelka said. “I’ve been doing what I’ve loved with tennis and without it.”

Some players get excited about watching a particular colleague play or hit a spectacular shot. Opelka is thrilled to receive a phone call from the likes of gallerist Tim Van Laere.

“I can pick up the phone and call Tim [Van Laere] any day and I got to interview Rinus Vandevelde. One of his artists, Kati Heck, painted me,” Opelka said. “I got to have the first pick of a painting from Jonathan Meese’s show, a German guy I love. Tim called me first and let me pick, which was super nice of him for an artist that I love that people also love. Very fortunate to have that connection with him.”

How many galleries and shows has Opelka been to in the past two years?

“You definitely can’t count it on two hands,” he said, cracking a smile.

While Opelka has been away, some of his countrymen have mentioned that they had been in touch with Opelka discussing a scouting report for their next opponent. But the four-time ATP Tour champion was not constantly glued to matches. “There are some guys I’m like, ‘Man, I don’t know this guy, some new guys’,” Opelka said. “It’s a huge changing of the guard.”

When Opelka’s time out of competition began, Carlos Alcaraz nor Jannik Sinner had won a Grand Slam tournament or climbed to World No. 1. Now they have combined to win five majors and both have ascended to the top of the sport.

“They’re both super cool. Carlos and I’ve hung out in a few tournaments. He’s always got a smile on his face and he’s a showman, right?” Opelka said. “Jannik’s got a cool look to him. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Milan and you can’t turn the corner without seeing that kid. Yeah, he’s just cool man. We’re lucky. Everyone was stressing, ‘Oh, Roger and Rafa are done’. These two are unbelievable.”

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Opelka actually played doubles with Sinner three years ago in Atlanta. The pair won the title.

“I got to hang out with him in Atlanta. Nicest kid in the whole world,” Opelka said. “We were going to dinner every night. Everything that you see, that you suspect, is who he really is. He’s as sweet of a guy as you can imagine.”

The 26-year-old made sure to point out the support he has received from his friends, including Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald among others.

“Me and Tommy speak almost every day no matter what. Me and Mackie don’t, but Mackie was making a point to come down [to visit],” Opelka said. “He came down to West Palm and hung out with me for a few days when I wasn’t hitting. Just really, really nice.”

Now Opelka and McDonald will meet in the Newport quarter-finals.

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