It’s Hardware Sunday at New York Open, and A Maiden Title On the Line for Opelka, Schnur
It’s been a great week for both American Reilly Opelka and Canadian Brayden Schnur. Tonight, one of them will have a “1” in their little stats column on your ATP scoring app as one will pick up their first ATP tour-level singles title at the New York Open in Uniondale, New York. I looked at the odds on my phone before yesterday’s matches, and Betfair had the odds of this final matchup at 10-1. Savor this rare moment of upset tennis in the men’s game, because it comes with the bonus of watching a first-timer hoist the hardware. In this case, it’s a giant abstract painting, but you get the idea.
Reilly Opelka got there by beating a familiar nemesis in John Isner, and the man in whose house Opelka watched the Superbowl just two weeks ago. Opelka had shocked Isner in Melbourne at the Australian Open in January, and Opelka didn’t let any nerves get to him even after he’d lost the first set tiebreak. Two more tiebreaks that did go his way landed Opelka in the final after shaking off six match points from Isner. The performances by the pair, 6’10 and 6’11, was as bold and pugilistic as the gentlemen’s size. In the arms race that has become professional tennis, these players are the heavy artillery of the game, with popping returns and 136 mile per hour serves the normal. 81 aces made for a record-breaking but very boring night of tennis. It’s the most aces combined in a best of three match since they started tracking these things in 1991. Generally speaking, it paid the bills but wasn’t easy to watch.
Brayden Schnur got here on the local train. He ran through 17-year-old Long Island native Cannon Kingsley and up-and-comer Alexei Popyrin to qualify before earning the first ATP win of his young career over Columbia University sophomore Jack Lin. It all started to click for Schnur when he saved 2 match points and came back from a 5-2 third set deficit to knock out #3 seed Steve Johnson last Wednesday. Friday saw him survive a marathon against veteran Paolo Lorenzi in three sets against another player who was playing on another level this week. That all made yesterday’s upset of #6 seed Sam Querrey less surprising than his other results of the week,
I’m sure some tournament organizers were in agony last night, as it might be less attractive for a casual fan to bundle up and take the Long Island Railroad out to see the Opelka-Schnur prize-fight. An Isner-Querrey final would have been preferred by the marketers and branders, none of which are in short supply in New York. Last year’s Anderson-Querrey final shouldn’t be the norm. The top seeds fly out of ATP 250 tournaments so often that you can’t often tell the difference between a Newport and a Challenger. For a true fan, there can be nothing more exciting at a 250 than being guaranteed to see a young player win his first pro level title.
Here’s to Super Sunday. The doubles final of Santiago Gonzalez and Aisam-Ul-Haq against Germany’s Kevin Krawietz and Andrea Mies goes live at 2:00 p.m. and the singles final starts at 4:00 p.m.