A first time champion on the ATP World Tour will be crowned on Long Island.
American Reilly Opelka and Canada’s Brayden Schnur will square off in the New York Open final inside NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, in a matchup of two players who had never reached this stage at a tournament before this week.
“I was one of the last guys to get into qualifying and my coach said to just see what happens,” said Schnur. “I think I’ve turned a lot of heads this week and am on the come-up.”
Schnur was the first to move through on Semifinal Saturday, as he continued his dream run in New York with a 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-3 over last year’s finalist and sixth-seeded American Sam Querrey.
After snatching the first set in a tiebreaker, Schnur raced out to a 3-0 lead in the second set and looked to be on his way to a routine straight-sets victory. But Querrey responded by breaking back for 2-3, and would go on to win the set 6-4 and force a deciding third.
Serving to begin the decider, Schnur took full advantage. After holding serve, he broke Querrey and consolidated it with a hold to once again open up a 3-0 lead. And this time, he would not relinquish it, holding his own to serve out the match and secure his spot in the final.
“You know, up 3-0 in the second set, I think I let my energy drop maybe 5 percent--only a little it. I missed too many first serves, and gave him too many second serve looks in both those service games,” said Schnur, who had not even won a tour-level match in his career before coming to New York. “Obviously, Sam’s a great player, and he’s going to take advantage of that. If you give these top guys too many second serve looks, they’re going to get their chance to break, so he played well to break me, but he also had a little bit of a letdown, so he wins the second set and then sure enough I get up 3-0 again in the third, and I knew I couldn’t make the same mistake and it obviously paid off in the end.”
In the final, he will take on a man familiar with hitting first serves. Opelka fired 43 aces and just one double-fault in his 6-7(8), 7-6(14), 7-6(4) upset over top-seed John Isner on Saturday night.
“One good point,” Opelka said of the difference in the third set tie breaker. “I actually put in a lot of returns in the third set tie breaker, so as long as I continue to serve and play well. I was getting balls back, and I felt like I was scrapping pretty well and neutralizing the ball pretty well.”
Before he even getting to the third set, Opelka saved six match points in a thrilling second-set tie breaker that lasted 30 points.
Opelka had a couple of break points early on in the third set, and despite not being able to convert, held steady on serve and was sharp in the deciding tie break to beat Isner for the second time in two months. The first came at the Australian Open and this time, it places him in the first ATP final of his career.
“I played a lot of Challengers last year, but at the same time I won some big matches on the Challenger tour last year,” said Opelka when asked about reaching his first final. “I beat some good players that made big runs in tour level events...It’s not a huge surprise in my mind.”
Opelka and Schnur will square off for the first time against one another with the New York Open title on the line. While each player has enjoyed a fantastic week thus far on Long Island, it will get even better for one of them on Sunday.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.