Former Palm Coast resident Reilly Opelka had to work twice as hard as usual Sunday to win his second ATP Tour tennis singles title.
Competing at the Delray Beach Open in Delray, the 22-year-old former Indian Trails Middle School student had to win two three-set matches in a span of just a few hours, topping former World No. 3 Milos Raonic in a semifinal in the morning, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 then coming back three hours later to outlast Yoshi Nishioka for the championship, 7-5, 6-7, 6-2.
The two matches in one day was necessary because Saturday night’s semifinal was rained out, and the tournament had to end on Sunday.
It is Opelka’s second ATP 250-level tour victory, and vaulted his ranking back inside the Top 40 to Number 39, just three off his career-high mark.
“I love playing at home. I have a house not far from here, 10 minutes. So I base here, I’ve been here the past 10 years, so I’m very comfortable,” Opelka told the ATP Tour website after the match. “It’s going to be an event I play a lot the rest of my career just because I plan on staying in South Florida. I love playing in Delray.”
To earn the winner’s check of $97,585, Opelka fought off a stiff challenge from Raonic, the former Wimbledon finalist. Opelka dropped the first set 6-4, then seemed in great shape when he took a 5-0 lead in the second set tiebreak. But Raonic ripped off six straight points to gain a match point, before Opelka steadied and won the next three.
He then broke Raonic midway through the third set and again in the final game.
After just a few hours of cool down and warm-back up, Opelka took on Nishioka, who Opelka beat just last week at the New York Open. The 7-footer from Palm Coast took the first set, lost the second, then broke Nishioka (who at 5-foot-7 was 16 inches shorter than his opponent!) twice in the third to take the title.
“I’m just really proud of the way I fought in the third set,” Opelka told the ATP Tour website. “I got an early break and I broke again. Physically I was feeling pretty good. If he broke me and we had to play more tennis, I was fine.”
An exhausted Opelka now flies to Acupulco where he’ll compete this week in another 250-level tournament.