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Against John Isner, Reilly Opelka Stands Taller

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But last season also started poorly, punctuated with a loss in some ways similar to the one against Opelka: a first-round defeat at the Australian Open at the hands of a little known, albeit much smaller opponent, Matthew Ebden, an Australian who stands a tour-typical 6-2.

Isner vowed to lean on the fact he began last season in such bad shape — not only being upset in Melbourne but posting an early record of two wins and six losses — before breaking through and winning Miami.

“I was off and running from there,” he said. “Just got to get one under my belt and see what happens.”

Though hardly one for long answers, Opelka appeared relaxed and casual as he spoke in the wake of the most significant victory of his young career. He spoke of the main difference between him and Isner. In the early stages of his career, Opelka, who is listed as 6-11 but has acknowledged he’s even taller, doesn’t have a deeply successful professional past to harken back on.

Hence, even after Monday, his primary motive remains clear: Keep playing well enough to never again have compete in tennis’s often brutal minor leagues, where he won two titles at the end of last season to break into the top 100.

“That,” he said, “is the immediate goal.”

More than making a long run in Melbourne?

Yes, he replied, saying he could only allow himself to think of his next match, against Thomas Fabbiano. The Italian is ranked No. 102 and, compared to Isner, is a relative munchkin.

“One guy is 5-10” Opelka said, referring to Fabbiano. “The other guy,” he added, referring to Isner not by name but with a pregnant pause, “is not.”


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