Reilly Opelka has never played in the singles main draw of the US Open before, but when the tournament rolls around at the end of the month, he should feel right at home in New York.
This February, Opelka picked up his first ATP title just 21 miles down the road, at the New York Open, where he most notably beat then–No. 9 John Isner in the semifinals, smashing a near-record 43 aces.
"I was actually Uber-ing from Long Island into New York City every night, into Manhattan for dinner—I'm a huge foodie," Opelka told Baseline. "I had a blast that week and definitely got a full experience of New York. It's definitely a week I'll never forget."
The US Open, though, is a much different proposition than an indoor ATP 250. It has an energy he describes as "hectic" and "stressful." So his after-work strategy will be the opposite of what he did during his winning week on Long Island.
"This year I'm taking a different approach to it," he says. "I'm actually not going to stay in Manhattan; I'm going to stay in Brooklyn and kinda get away from all the noise, even though you can't escape it anyway—it's New York."
Fortunately, Opelka has gotten to familiarize himself with the city even more lately, as he did a photoshoot with Red Bull and Dustin Snipes at Hudson River Park, which resulted in this epic shot of Opelka, 6'11", serving in front on One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the United States:
On the back of his New York title, Opelka's ranking currently sits at a career-high No. 43, more than 100 spots ahead of where he was this time last year, which will make his US Open debut feel especially sweet.
"I like the fact that I earned it," he says. "I never got a wild card for the US Open ... Now I really feel I'm ready."
Opelka gives some of the credit for this level to his fellow young Americans on tour: Tommy Paul, Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe. He says, in addition to pushing him by proving that winning on tour is possible for their cohort, they support each other as best friends, as evidenced by his "Taylor Vans."
Opelka says he got them to wear at Fritz's wedding, where he was the best man and Paul was a groomsman.
"It ended up getting in, like, a week after the wedding was over, and I was like, I still gotta wear them, you know," Opelka says. "So I wore 'em around one night, and Tommy snapped a picture of it and put it out there, and Taylor called us right away humiliated, like, Are you guys serious? What are you thinking?! We always do that type of stuff to him. I still have them, by the way."
In the Atlanta Open two weeks ago, Opelka defeated Isner again, in three sets, en route to the semifinals. He then reached the second round in Washington, D.C., going out in a decider to Felix Auger-Aliassime. But, in the long run, what's really on his mind is his next trip to New York.
"I wanna be a top player in the world, so those other tournaments definitely matter towards my ranking," he says. "But, at the end of the day, the Slams are the reason we play."