WASHINGTON, January 4, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)
When the ATP Tour launches its 2021 season with a 250-level event at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com in Delray Beach, Fla., on January 7, many eyes will be focused on Reilly Opelka. The American, who stands six-feet-eleven-inches, is a towering figure and an easy one to spot.
The 23-year-old defending champion Opelka begins the new season ranked 39th in the world, but will be trying to shake off a two-match losing streak that saw him also lose five of his last seven matches overall in 2020, including back-to-back first-round losses at the US Open and Roland Garros.
Last year, Opelka served 374 aces, won 80 percent of his first-serve points and 90 percent of his service games. Since turning pro in 2015, Opelka has achieved a career-high ranking of No. 31 in October 2019 while compiling a 47-46 win-loss record and winning two titles.
When Opelka, who dealt with a right knee injury during portions of 2020, was recently asked by Tennis.com what his motivation for opening the new season, he said, “I’ve emphasized my body a lot this off-season. So, I want to really prioritize going into the year 100 percent healthy. I think this is just a nice place for me to start. Ranking-wise, I have nothing to gain and I have nothing to lose, which is nice as well. It’s just it’s really going to be a for me to find my tennis.”
Opelka, who lives in Delray Beach, considers this year’s field an impressive one. Besides Opelka, it includes Canada’s Milos Raonic (ranked 14th) and American No. 1 John Isner (ranked 25th). There will also be competition from fellow Americans Sam Querrey (ranked 53rd) and Frances Tiafoe (ranked 59th).
“The field’s incredible. They have a lot of really great players,” Opelka said. “You’ve got probably one of the most high-level entry fields that they’ve seen. Isner, Querrey, Frances has won it. There [are three] past champions, so a lot of guys that like playing here.”
In last year’s final, Opelka fired 27 aces and defeated Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2.
Threatened legal challenge could disrupt Australian Open
The owners of penthouse apartments located in the Westin Melbourne are threatening a legal challenge against Tennis Australia’s plan to use the hotel to quarantine players ahead of the this year’s Australian Open.
The @AustralianOpen faces another major disruption after the owners of apartments in The Westin Melbourne challenged a plan to use the exclusive hotel to quarantine hundreds of players. | Exclusive https://t.co/WOazddxLWV#coronavirus #hotelquarantine #Australianopen
— The Age (@theage) January 3, 2021
Sofia Kenin parts way with management team
Sofia Kenin and Top Five Management, the World No. 4’s agency, have parted ways. While the reigning 22-year-old Australian Open women’s champion hasn’t commented on the breakup, Top Five Management reported the split on its website and on Twitter on December 31.
”Due to difficulties with the athlete’s environment, Top Five Management has decided not to extend its collaboration with Sofia Kenin,” the statement said. “After joining Top Five Management, the U.S. tennis rising star delivered an outstanding performance during season 2020 – notably winning the Australian Open and reaching the final at the French Open. Top Five Management wishes Sofia all the best for the future.”
Last year, Kenin won two tournaments – the Australian Open and the Lyon Open – and reached the final of the French Open. She was named the WTA Player of the Year for 2020.
After joining Top Five Management, the U.S. tennis rising star delivered an outstanding performance during season 2020 – notably winning the Australian Open and reaching the French Open final.
We wish Sofia all the best for the future. 2/2https://t.co/dj1gosEz0s
— Top Five Management (@TopFiveMgmt) December 31, 2020
Garbiñe Muguruza’s first magazine cover of 2021
— Garbiñe Muguruza (@GarbiMuguruza) January 2, 2021
Holidays with Daniil Medvedev
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A New Year’s message from Shelby Rogers
You know what? I’m thankful for 2020! Thankful for what it taught me, what I accomplished, the challenges, & how much I grew as a person. Thankful for everyone that helped me & encouraged me. Thankful for the opportunity to be able to build on these things in 2021! #HAPPYNEWYEAR
— Shelby Rogers (@Shelby_Rogers_) January 1, 2021
Salute to The Guardian‘s Kevin Mitchell
Kevin Mitchell, a longtime sportswriter for The Guardian of London who covered tennis, has retired. In his farewell column published Saturday, among his five favorite moments from his 50 years of writing were two from tennis:
• “Long past midnight in Jimmy’s Corner, New York’s best dive var, half a block from Times Square, the tail end of summer, 2012. Unbeknown to me and my colleagues, Andy Murray was around the corner in a Japanese restaurant, picking up the $6,000-plus tab for family and friends to celebrate winning his first grand slam title – and drinking orange juice. He’d get drunk for the first time in years on the plane home.”
• “Has there been a more Shakespearean tennis match than Naomi Osaka’s nerveless first grand slam title victory, as Serena Williams rides her emotions in the 2018 US Open final, doomed to be as misunderstood as Desdemona? The American, guilty in the eyes of Othello (umpire Carlos Ramos), cried at the skies and morphed into an emotional wreck. If she ever wins her elusive 24th grand slam title, it will be her greatest triumph.”
— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) January 2, 2021