American Reilly Opelka captured the first ATP Tour title of his career on Sunday afternoon, defeating Brayden Schnur 6-1, 6-7(7), 7-6(7) in a thrilling New York Open final inside NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“This is definitely my biggest title yet, the one I’m most proud of for sure,” said Opelka. “It’s been a million people along the way, so many different people have helped me, and now I want to go a lot further than even this.”
A day after he saw just two break point opportunities and didn’t convert on either, Opelka had chances to break serve early and often on Sunday. After holding in the match’s first game, Opelka quickly broke Schnur and found himself ahead 3-0, and would break one more time on his way to winning the first set in just 18 minutes.
Schnur dug his heels in as the second set began and found his rhythm. The two would trade holds of serve, and although Opelka would set up four chances to break serve, could not convert on any of them. At 6-6, the two headed into a tiebreak.
In the breaker, Opelka had two match points, double faulting on the second one which left the door open for Schnur to sneak back in. He did just that, winning three straight points from 6-7 down and force the finals into a deciding third set.
“It definitely was,” Opelka said when asked if it was difficult to rebound after losing two match points. “I was disappointed with how I played, with how I hit that point over, and even the next point. I played kind of soft, and that’s not my style.”
Holds of serve would be the theme of the third set. Opelka had three chance to break serve at 2-1, but Schnur saved all of them, and the New York Open singles final would head to a third set tiebreak for the second consecutive season.
The key moment in the tiebreak would come at 7-7. Schnur fired what looked to be an ace and that was called in, but Opelka challenged and the call would be overturned. Schnur would dump the ensuing second serve which set up another championship point for Opelka.
Opelka wouldn’t squander this one, and dialed up a blistering ace out wide, his 43rd of the day, to win the match and the title.
“I put myself in a good position throughout the match, and the third set breaker could have went either way,” said Opelka. “The challenge honestly was probably the difference."
In all, Opelka had six championship points, less than 24 hours after he saved six match points in the semifinals against top-seed John Isner. He becomes the first player to hit 40 or more aces in consecutive best-of-three set matches since the tour began keeping track of aces in 1991. He earns 250 ATP Rankings points and walks away with $119,800 in prize money.
For Schnur, it’s a disappointing finish to the best week of his professional tennis career. He came to Long Island under the weather and without an tour-level win under his belt, but is now an ATP Tour tournament runner-up.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s an amazing week for me,” said Schnur, who has earned 150 ranking points. “I’ve believed it for a little while now. I think I struggled with that earlier in my career but definitely I believe I belong in the top, I belong in these kind of tournaments, and playing the best every week and it shows that I’m right there. I’ll take the confidence from these and keep moving forward.”