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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday October 10, 2021

In a scathing, brutally honest and perhaps incendiary interview with Bill Simons of Inside Tennis, American Reilly Opelka bashed the tennis media (terrible), praised John McEnroe (misunderstood genius, cultured and a rock star) and spoke of his goals in the sport (to win a Slam).

Tennis Express

He also admitted that the next generation of American men’s tennis is even better than the current one, and singled out Jenson Brooksby, the 20-year-old who lost a tight three-setter to Alexander Zverev on Sunday at Indian Wells, as a special talent who is a future No.1. It’s high praise coming from the current American No.1, especially when we take into consideration that an American hasn’t held the No.1 men’s singles ranking since January of 2004, when Andy Roddick last held the top spot.

But Opelka believes in Brooksby’s “x-factor.”

“The young guys are better than us, if I’m being honest,” Opelka said. “Korda is a hell of a player…Brooksby is brutal…He’s going to be a big second-week guy. Nakashima is as pure of a ball-striker as there is. The young guys are going to be the guys to beat, from the American standpoint.”


Opelka says that Brooksby’s stock is on the rise and he’s buying. The Sacramento native has turned a lot of heads in his first year on tour. He reached his first ATP final at Newport this summer, then landed a spot in the second week of the US Open, where he took a set off of World No.1 Novak Djokovic.

“I’d invest in Brooksby,” Opelka said. “He’s special, and could be No. 1. His mind works so differently. He’s got this game plan, he sees things so well and is so tricky. Behind the baseline he reminds me of Djokovic. He’s got great depth, is a great ball striker, a great mover, good size and intangibles. He’s got this X-factor, his mindset, that could make him a future Grand Slam champion.”


Opelka, 24 years old and currently ranked No.20, has made no secret in the past about his disdain for the tennis media. He continued to express his thoughts on the subject with Simons, and complained that the current crop of Americans, featuring John Isner, Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul, are unfairly compared to the golden age of American men’s tennis, when the McEnroes, Connors, Agassis, Samprases and Couriers ruled the roost.

“These guys are terrible,” he said. “There are some bad journalists. You have some guys that just criticize. They look to be super negative. Guys that know nothing about tennis. I think we have the worst media of any sport, quite frankly.”

Opelka feels that the media consistently overlooks the accomplishments of the current players as the forever dwell on the glory of past that has proven impossible to replicate. There are currently 13 Americans inside the Top 100, seven of which are 24 or younger.

“I’m in the finals of Toronto and these guys are asking me, ‘What’s wrong with American tennis? Why aren’t there any American players in the top 30?’ The same in Rome: I’m in the semis and they are finding the negative. I’m 23 and playing Rafa. Things are quite all right. I’m in the finals of Toronto and we are going to talk about how Americans don’t win Slams?”

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