Former Palm Coast resident Reilly Opelka got off to a strong start at the 2021 Australian Open tennis tournament Sunday night, playing three strong sets to defeat Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 in Melbourne, Australia.
The former Indian Trails Middle School student notched his second career win at the Australian Open (he beat John Isner previously, in 2019) played very well against an outgunned opponent.
The 7-foot Opelka drilled 18 aces and had only one spot of trouble in the match, when Lu broke him early to go up 4-1. But Opelka broke right back and played a strong second-set tiebreak, winning it 7-2, and then cruised from there.
Opelka broke Hsu’s serve three times and had 50 winners to only 37 unforced errors.
The 23-year-old now advances to play his best friend, fellow American and No. 27 ranked Taylor Fritz. Fritz beat Spain’s Alberto Ramos-Vinolas later Sunday night in four sets. Opelka and Fritz are extremely close friends: Opelka was in Fritz’s wedding. Fritz has beaten the Floridian three of four times they’ve played on the ATP Tour, including their last encounter last year in Belgium, where Fritz won 7-6 (5), 6-1. Opelka beat his friend in their previous encounter, in Tokyo, in 2019, 6-3, 6-4. They’re scheduled to play on Tuesday.
Opelka is in the same half of the draw as world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, and could play Djokovic if both advance to the third round. Djokovic easily won his first-round match. The tournament started with eight Americans in the men’s draw, only one of them seeded (Fritz). They’re down to seven. The Opelka-Fritz match features the two highest-ranked Americans at the tournament.
By moving on to the second round, Opelka has guaranteed himself at least $115,275–the same amount the mixed doubles championship winners would have to share. The championship winner gets $2.1 million. The total purse for this year’s Australian Open is $62 million ($80 million in Australian dollars).