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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Wednesday December 30, 2020

 
Reilly Opelka

Reilly Opelka is thrilled to have a shot to defend his Delray Beach Open title, even if it comes on short notice.

Photo Source: DBO

Reilly Opelka is eager to kick off his 2021 season at the scene of one of his best moments of 2020, at the Delray Beach Open where he saved a match point en route to his second career title last February.

Tennis Express

But the 6’11” World No.39’s trepidation about his form and what lies ahead during the Aussie summer points to a difficult first quarter of the 2021 season with the Coronavirus pandemic still raging and a very difficult quarantine lying in wait in mid-January.

"As far as Australia goes, you know, I'm not that excited to be honest,” Opelka told reporters on Wednesday during a conference call to promote next week’s Delray Beach Open. “I don't want to stay in my room for 19 hours (per day). I get it, we have to do it, but I'm not one bit excited."

Opelka, who will join a star-studded field in Florida for the 250-level event which takes place from January 4-13, is excited to be kicking off the season at an event in his “back yard,” but the American isn’t sure how he feels about what will happen later in January, when he boards a plane to Melbourne and takes part in a strict quarantine for two weeks ahead of the 2021 Australian Open.


"We'll see how it goes," Opelka says of the quarantine, which starts January 15-16. "They have a crazy lockdown on us that seems brutal, but if that's what it takes for them to allow us in, then that's what it takes."

Opelka is particulary worried because of the current state of fragility of his body. He has been dealing with patella tendinitis in his knee for about a year and spent most of the last three months building strength and setting his body right.

He fears that spending two weeks in quarantine, where players are only allowed out of their hotel rooms for five hours per day, could set him back physically.

"For me like my body has been a big issue, my body hasn't held up well, I need access to the gym I need access to my physio and I'm only allowed out of my room five hours a day, so of that time I have to use it wisely,” he said. “But for two weeks I'm concerned with the lack of time and work that I'll be limited to for my body specifically, for my knee, so it would be a shame if I fly down 24 hours on a flight down to Australia and I don't get to work that much with my physio for two weeks. I don't get to do the things that a professional tennis player needs to do to be ready to compete."

During the 19 hours of daily down time in which players are required to remain in their rooms during the Australian Open quarantine, Opelka will not be able to spend time with the physio that he and Taylor Fritz, his practice partner for week one of quarantine, will be sharing.

He says he’ll put together a plan that includes exercises, but it’s clear that Opelka is not all that excited about the prospects.

"I have nothing else to do,” he said of his decison to play. “I could stay home and train some more but I've been doing that for three months. I've considered every option, but yeah I'm going to go.”

Next week in Delray Beach Opelka will look to knock the rust off after a long off-season and he is not prepared to set big goals for the event. He just wants to find his level and start to build up his competitive mindset again.

“I don't really care what my draw is looking like, I know it's gonna be tough either way. And I'm just there to see where my level’s at and see how, see how my tennis is holding up after being on such a hiatus for a while.”

Also taking part in the Delray Beach Open are former champions Frances Tiafoe and Sam Querrey.

Former finalist Milos Raonic will also be in a field that includes Cristian Garin, Hubert Hurkacz, John Isner and Vasek Pospisil.


Opelka says he actually had to tone down his off-season training when he heard that the Delray Beach Open had moved to a new slot in the first week of January, from its normal mid-February spot on the calendar. It’s an opportunity he’ll gladly accept.

“I was doing a lot of stuff in the gym and a lot of stuff a lot of training so I just actually toned down,” he said of his preparation. “I did the opposite, I really eased off to make sure my body's ready to play and start up.”

Opelka remembers visiting the tournament as a young junior and recalls being in the stands to watch stars like Tommy Haas, James Blake, Steve Johnson and Donald Young. This year, he’s happy to come back to defend his title, even if it is on short notice.

“Yeah, we didn't have much notice but you know, neither did the tournament,” he said. “The tournament did an incredible job. I know they had to resurface their courts … they had to get the bubble situation figured out. Tickets. Fans. In only, what, two half, three weeks? So that we've all been, you know, scrambling but everyone's making their best effort.”

 

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