Palm Coast’s Reilly Opelka, a former Indian Trails Middle School student now rising up the ranks of the men’s tennis tour, captured his second professional tournament victory Sunday.
Opelka, the 20-year-old who left the area at age 12 to train at the USTA headquarters then in Boca Raton, defeated Gregoire Barrere, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 in Boredeaux, France to garner his first clay-court title. It was his second-ever championship on the Challenger level, considered the AAA level of pro tennis.
Opelka previously defeated former Top 10 player Ernests Gulbis in the semifinals, and now has a lot of momentum heading into French Open qualifying, which begins with his first match Tuesday.
“I served great, served a lot of aces from the first match and competed really hard,” Opelka told ATPWorldTour.com after the match. “I love it here. Even off the court I’ve been hanging out in the city a lot and enjoying my time. The architecture is incredible.”
The 7-foot-Opelka, now the tallest active ATP Tour professional, has had a successful 2018 after changing coaches at the start of the year to former Top 20 pro Jay Berger.
He reached the quarterfinals of the Delray Beach Open in February, beating Top 10 player Jack Sock along the way, then made it to the semifinals of a Challenger in Savannah, Ga. in early May.
The 2016 Junior Wimbledon champion now will need to win three matches on the famous terre battue (red clay) of Roland Garros, site of the French Open.
He faces No. 222-ranked Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands. Last year Opelka lost in the final round of qualifying in three sets to Nicolas Jarry of Chile.
— By Michael J. Lewis, Special to FlaglerLive.com