This could be a very big year for the biggest man in tennis history.
Former Indian Trails Middle School student Reilly Opelka has steadily moved up the ATP tennis rankings over the last few years, and begins 2022 just outside the Top 20, at No. 23.
By all accounts the 24-year-old 7-footer is entering the prime of his career, and coming off his best Grand Slam showing, a fourth-round appearance at the U.S. Open last September, Opelka seems poised to reach the second week at majors regularly.
In the wee hours of Monday morning Eastern time, he took the first step toward doing that, easily dispatching former Top 10 stalwart Kevin Anderson in the first round of the Australian Open, winning 6-3, 6-4, 7-6.
Opelka moves on to a second-round match Tuesday with a bit of a nemesis, Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, who has beaten Opelka all three times they’ve played on the pro tour, including twice at Grand Slam events.
“Yeah it was a tough first round, you know,” Opelka said in his post-match press conference in Melbourne. “I made a lot of returns, and served better than him. Today I think I was the better server and pressure added up and saw some uncharacteristic misses on his serve that were because of my serve
With the entire messy Novak Djokovic/deportation affair finally behind the pro tennis world, with the No.1 player leaving Australia Sunday, fans and players could finally focus on the actual sport on the court.
Sunday’s win was a very clean performance for Opelka, as he served remarkably efficiently. He pumped in 74 percent of his first serves, and won 91 percent of first-serve points.
The current No. 3 American broke Anderson’s serve once each in the first two sets and never faced a break point himself, and hung on to win the third set tiebreaker, 7-3.
Opelka will be looking on Tuesday to make the Australian Open’s third round for the first time.
— Michael J. Lewis for FlaglerLive