Towering Opelka on grass-court streak

LONDON • Reilly Opelka stands officially at 2.11m, admits he is closer to 2.13m and is desperate for a big bed to sleep in.

The American, 21, made the third round at Wimbledon by seeing off three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 on Wednesday. But he spent most of his time after his match facing down questions over his height.

The 63rd-ranked player had a TV interview in the corridors of Court Two where his head almost scraped the ceiling.

But he is glad to be at the All England Club which at least assures him of a comfortable night's sleep.

In Eastbourne last week, it was a different matter even if it was for just one round. When asked if he was able to fit snugly into his seaside hotel bed, he sighed: "Not really."

However, he bristles at the attention his giant frame attracts.

"I have answered this question, like, 150 times. It's the same as it was yesterday, and, I don't know. Close, 6'11", 7'0". Not sure," he said.

He had never won a grass-court match before this week but now finds himself in the third round, where he will face 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic today for a place in the fourth round.

He may not have got this far if he had followed his childhood love and targeted a career in the National Basketball Association.

"I wish I was. I regret it every day," he said. "I enjoy it a lot. It's my favourite sport. I don't play it much any more. When I'm home, I shoot every day. I go to the court and play all the time."

He was the Wimbledon boys' champion in 2015 and will have no fears of facing Raonic, who has fired 46 aces to his 34. Only fellow giant Ivo Karlovic is ahead of them with 58, although the Croat was knocked out by 1.73m Thomas Fabbiano on Wednesday.

Added Opelka: "I have seen it a few times already playing (Kevin) Anderson, (John) Isner, (Sam) Querrey. There are so many guys now that have similar, similar styles. Big guys, big serves."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2019, with the headline 'Towering Opelka on grass-court streak'. Print Edition | Subscribe