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Reilly Opelka shows off new swing in Citi Open-er
The towering American has been tinkering with his forehand in the hopes of rounding his game into something entirely unbeatable.
Published Aug 05, 2021
Say Reilly Opelka’s name and what likely follows are mentions of his towering 6'11" height and big serving. But he wants his game to have another claim to fame.
Playing this week's Citi Open event in Washington, D.C., the 23-year-old American has recently made some big changes in his forehand, discussing them after a 7-6 (1), 6-3 opening-round win over Daniel Galán.
"I think I've improved my forehand a lot," Opelka told press at Washington, D.C, responding to a question from TENNIS.com. “It's something that we made adjustment on, a pretty big technical adjustment. It's going to take time, but I think it's already shown a lot of improvements. That will change a lot of things with my game."
Opelka's career-best ranking was No. 31 in 2019, but he's aiming for more and says his new forehand can help him.
"I got to 30-something in the world with a shot, with a weakness that should be a strength in men's tennis," he said. "We've made a lot of adjustments. It's exciting for me to know that if I stay the path—I got ranked pretty high with a shot that can be a lot better. I can have one of the best forehands in the world. I'm excited to know I can climb higher."
The rest of his shots shouldn't require as much change, adds Opelka, who is also a better mover than his height would suggest.
"I’m still working on it. My backhand, technically I don't think there's too much wrong," he said. "Just some little things I can do. It will get better overtime. I'm still improving, getting stronger. My backhand is pretty good."
It isn't easy for a player to significantly adjust a stroke, especially during the season, but for Opelka, it paid off straightaway. He started using the forehand changes in Rome, and reached the semifinals, falling to Rafael Nadal, 6-4, 6-4.
Those are the kind of meetings he would like to have more often, saying that even when he's playing an idol, he aims to win.
"He's great. He's Rafa. He's the greatest," said Opelka. "That's his court. My favorite player growing up. It's a cool to play a legend like him. But I think to a certain extent, you see players losing to Rafa, Roger [Federer], Novak [Djokovic], they're getting a selfie with him on the court. You got to draw the line somewhere."
Nadal is the top seed at this week's ATP event in Washington, while Opelka, who paired Jannik Sinner to win his first doubles title last week in Atlanta, is the No.8 seed.