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Quarantine 20 the new Freshman 15? Reilly Opelka & Tommy Paul explain
Staying together in Delray Beach, Opelka revealed Wednesday that late-night milkshake runs to Wawa contributed to hitting 240 on the scale, while Paul became "thick for real" after gaining 20 pounds.
Published May 06, 2020
On college campuses throughout the U.S., the Freshman 15 can be more daunting than adjusting to a new environment and expectations in the classroom. Whether it’s exacerbated by poor habits, stress-eating or a simple lack of responsibility, the reality is, many students end up packing on the pounds during their first year.
Tennis players conscientiously monitor their intake in numerous cities around the world. In prime shape, these athletes strike a perfect balance between staying accountable with their nutrition and treating themselves to the occasional cheat meal or indulgence. But what happens when there is no tennis to be played or strenuous workloads to uphold, and a player is stuck in the same place for an extended period?
Enter the Quarantine 20. Since tennis stopped on March 8 with the cancellation of Indian Wells, Reilly Opelka has been at home in Delray Beach, Fla. One of his best friends on tour, Tommy Paul, has stayed with him, after both helped lead their country to a 4-0 win over Uzbekistan at a Davis Cup Finals qualifier in Honolulu. The two have enjoyed activities like the rest of us, such as binge-watching Outer Banks, but as Opelka and Paul soon found out, a life without structure—much like a student going off on their own for the first time—has its unintended consequences.
“I weighed in at a personal record-breaking 240 pounds. The diet changed a few times,” Opelka said in a Zoom conference call Wednesday to promote his upcoming appearance in the UTR Pro Match Series presented by Tennis Channel.
“I don’t know if you’re familiar with Wawa, but I was having some 12 a.m., 12:30 a.m. runs for an Oreo milkshake. Once I saw the 240, I started to cut back on the milkshakes and Lucky Charms. I ran a 10k the other day, which for me is crazy and unheard of. I’ve been training some more, so I’m back down to my training weight, around 228.
Opelka was quick to point out he wasn’t the only one in his house to be affected by the current landscape.
“He hit 200, which for a guy 6’ 1’’, is not easy to do,” Opelka shared about his roommate.
“I went up almost 20,” chimed in Paul. “I was thick for real.”
Paul was noticeably rocking a much shorter haircut than when fans last saw him on court. He confirmed, “I definitely got my hair chopped off. We had a lady come in and cut [mine] and Reilly’s hair.”
The pair of rising 22-year-olds are two of the four competitors set to compete in the West Palm Beach, Fla. area this weekend alongside Miomir Kecmanovic and Hubert Hurkacz. With Tennis Channel airing every match live starting Friday, it will see live sports coverage with top athletes on U.S. television for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic stopped everything in its tracks. All four agreed that playing for an audience is a huge motivator to take part in the inaugural event.
“I’m just thinking it’s going to be a lot of fun to just go out and play an actual match for the fans. It’s definitely going to be a nice change of pace,” said Kecmanovic.
Added Hurkacz, “I think it’s a great opportunity for each one of us to try after the break where our level it is at. And also show the spectators some live matches. Hopefully they’ll have fun watching them.”
Kecmanovic and Hurkacz have both been training in Florida at the IMG Academy and Saddlebrook, respectively. Like their American counterparts, both are noteworthy members of a generation that hopes to break the mold at the top of the game. Kecmanovic predicts that Stefanos Tsitsipas has the best shot among the group to grab a major title first. Opelka, who named Alex de Minaur as his choice, doesn’t envision anybody getting a chance to make inroads anytime soon.
“I don’t see a near-end to this,” he said. “I don’t think it will be easy to categorize who it helps. If it’s going to hurt anyone, it’s probably Novak or Rafa, depending on when we come back. For those guys, it will affect them a lot more.”
Opelka wants leadership to focus on being better prepared for unforeseen circumstances, such as a pandemic. The Player Relief Program, which first came to light when Novak Djokovic released a letter outlining a proposal on social media, was confirmed to be moving forward Tuesday with $6 million supporting 800 players and the opportunity for competitors to chip in additional funds. Opelka is all for it, calling it a “great concept,” but also points to the fact he and his colleagues are being put in a position that other athletes aren’t.
“I definitely don’t think it should be mandatory for the Top 100 players to have to do it, but also think it shows a lot of the problems we currently have in our sport. There’s not many sports where players are paying for other players,” he said. “I think during this time off, the ATP can do a lot to restructure. Hopefully moving forward, there aren’t situations where players are struggling as much as they are. Players shouldn’t be gifted 10 grand for nothing. I think there should be a selection process, application process and every case should be looked at different.”
For Paul, he’s looking forward to facing someone other than Opelka and his “annoying serve.” The first two days of competition at this weekend’s UTR Pro Match Series event will feature a first to four games, best-of-three set format, ultimately determining Sunday’s championship and third place matches.
“Definitely pumped to play one of the other two guys and see a different serve,” Paul said.