Reilly Opelka’s meteoric rise through the ranks of the tennis world should’t be a surprise. Sixteen months ago, barely 16 and just recovered from a broken foot, he was at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, playing in the main draw of the Junior Boys Singles at the U.S. Open. Last March, the Palm Coast resident and former Indian Trails Middle School student played an exhibition match at Madison Square Garden, warming up the crowd just before the BNP Paribas Showdown, what he termed “an unbelievable experience.”
He finished 2014 with a 41-8 record, and just last month, as an unseeded player–and at one point serving three aces in a row–defeated No. 2 seed and fellow-American Michael Mmoh at the Eddie Herr International Junior Championships in Bradenton, a springboard to the likes of Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick and Ana Ivanovic. Opelka that same month was a semifinalist at the 2014 Orange Bowl International Championship (Boys 18 Division).
Nor should it be a surprise that the USTA selected the 6-foot-10 junior, ranked 20 in his division, as the wild card for the USTA Pro Circuit Men’s Futures Tournament that starts Friday at the Palm Coast Tennis Center.
The Main Draw will begin Tuesday, Jan. 27, following qualifying. Opelka will first play either Tuesday or Wednesday, Jan. 28, said Tournament Director Debbie Stanfield. He is slated to play singles, but it’s possible he could partner with another player for doubles.
This is the first time in at least four years that a local resident was selected by USTA as the Main Draw Wild Card for the tournament played in Palm Coast. The Main Draw Wild Card is an automatic admission into the tournament without going through qualifying. The USTA gives out two per tournament, and the tournament director gives out two (the Wild Card winner and one other).
Opelka is ranked 1,195th overall in singles and 1,173rd in doubles in ATP rankings. He’s been playing since he was 5.
The 6-foot 10.5-inch tall Opelka, who trains in Fort Lauderdale, is playing in his first Futures Tournament of the season this week in Westin, Florida. He made it through qualifying and will play his first Main Draw match on Wednesday. He is the son of George and Lynne Opelka of Palm Coast.
The public is invited to come out and watch Opelka and other rising stars of men’s tennis from around the world during the tournament, which starts Friday and continues through Sunday, Feb. 1. This is the City of Palm Coast’s sixth year hosting the tournament, which has a $10,000 purse. The Palm Coast Tennis Center is located at 1290 Belle Terre Parkway.
The Wild Card Men’s Open tournament for local players’ entry in the qualifying portion of the Futures Tournament started Monday and continues through Wednesday. The winner gets a wild card entry into the Main Draw, and the runner-up gets a wild card into Qualifying. Spectator admission is free to the Wild Card Tournament, along with Futures Tournament Qualifying Jan. 23-26 and Main Draw play Jan. 27-29. Also free is Kids Day at 2 p.m. Jan. 24, where children 6-12 will have fun and games on-court with the head pro and some stars of tomorrow! Advance registration for Kids Day is recommended, at the Palm Coast Tennis Center. Tickets to participate in the Pro-Am Event at 5 p.m. Jan. 27 are $35; advance registration is required at the tennis center.
The schedule is as follows:
- Wild Card Men’s Open tournament will continue now through Jan. 21
- Qualifying begins at 8 a.m. Friday, Jan. 23 and continues through Monday, Jan. 26
- Kid’s Day will be Jan. 24 at 2 p.m.
- Main Draw Singles and Doubles begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27
- Doubles Quarter Finals will be Wednesday, Jan. 28
- Doubles Semi-Finals are on Thursday, Jan. 29
- Doubles Finals are on Friday, Jan. 30
- Singles Quarter Finals will be on Friday, Jan. 30
- Singles Semi-Finals are on Saturday, Jan. 31
- Singles Finals are on Sunday, Feb. 1
All matches are free through Thursday, Jan. 29. From Friday, Jan. 30, through Sunday, Feb. 1, daily tickets will be $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. A ticket package is available for all three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) at $25 for adults; $12 for children.
A schedule of matches will be posted daily at www.PalmCoastTennisCenter.com. Times are subject to change, so please check the online schedule often. No refunds will be given. For more information, visit the website or call 386-986-2550.
Watch Reilly Opelka in action at the 2013 USTA Jr. National Clay Court Championships in Delray Beach: