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Reilly Opelka eager to defend his New York Open title

Reilly Opelka hoists the trophy after winning the

Reilly Opelka hoists the trophy after winning the New York Open at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum in February. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Reilly Opelka admits his best results come when his mind is not preoccupied with tennis.

The 22-year-old Opelka won his first ATP title at the New York Open at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum this year and is looking forward to defending his title in February. Opelka said playing in New York helped him let loose and relax because he enjoyed all that the city has to offer, especially the fashion shows.

“I love New York,” Opelka said. “The New York Open goes on during New York Fashion Week, so I was in the city every night. I was in a good place mentally. I was happy and pretty laid back.”

Opelka, ranked 36th in the world, said his eye for fashion is a big reason he loves playing the major tournaments, especially the U.S. Open in Flushing.

“I’m a big consumer when it comes to fashion,” he said.

Opelka, like the majority of tennis players, is starting his preseason training and plans to begin his 2020 campaign with an ATP event in Adelaide, Australia, a warm-up tournament for the Australian Open.

Preseason for a tennis player is unique because it is only 4-6 weeks long, leading players to often overtrain in a short period of time.

“I don’t treat preseason much different than any other training block,” said Opelka, who predominantly trains in Florida with his USTA coach, Jay Berger.

Opelka, who was at the Park Avenue Tennis Club in Huntington on Friday, said another reason he likes the New York Open is that indoor tennis favors his style of play, especially his forehand and serve.

“The New York Open courts suit my game well,” Opelka said. “The courts aren’t too fast, which gives me more time to swing and set up my shots.”

Opelka, who is 6-foot-11, credits much of his success to his serve.

“I hold [serve] 91% of the time and break [serve] about 8%, which are pretty extreme numbers in opposite directions,”  he said. “Hopefully the 8% goes up to about 15%, and if that happens, I will definitely be ranked a lot higher.”

Opelka said his height can be a problem when returning serve because opponents try to jam him with serves into his body.

Since winning the New York Open, Opelka has reached the semifinal of three ATP events (the BBC Tennis Championships of Dallas, the BB&T Atlanta Open and the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships) as well as reaching the round of 32 at Wimbledon.

On Feb. 9, Opelka, the third-highest ranked American, will begin his quest to defend his New York Open title. The 2018 champ Kevin Anderson of South Africa, Japan's Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios of Australia also will be in the 32-player draw.

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