WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Reilly Opelka still is getting used to some aspects of visiting Britain.
The bed frame where he stayed during a Wimbledon tune-up tournament that wasn’t quite big enough for the six-foot-11 American, for example. The lack of air conditioning compared to back home in Florida. As for the grass-court tennis? Opelka is increasingly comfortable with that, as demonstrated by a 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6 second-round victory over three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka at the All England Club on Wednesday night.
“Every year I come here, and, like, ‘Why is there no AC?’ They’re, like, ‘Oh, it’s never hot here.’ Every year, it’s over 80 degrees!” Opelka said.
He is ranked 63rd and is unseeded for his main-draw debut at Wimbledon, where he won the 2015 junior title.
But against a far-more experienced and far-more accomplished player, he pounded eight of his 23 aces and saved both break points he faced in the last set, fending off 10 of Wawrinka’s 12 break chances in all. At six-all in the fifth, Opelka erased a break chance with a 140mph service winner, then followed with two more serves Wawrinka failed to put in play, at 133mph and 137mph.
It was Opelka’s ability to adjust his style, serve-and-volleying only three times in the final set, and to hang in there on longer exchanges that made this upset possible.
“I’ve always been a pretty good mover. Underrated, actually,” said the 21-year-old Opelka, participating in only his fourth major tournament. “I think sometimes when I play guys for the first time, they don’t expect it. It helps me win so many points, being able to (track) down some extra balls, especially in the key moments.”
It was the 22nd-seeded Wawrinka’s groundstrokes who failed him, with four errors that helped Opelka earn the only service break of the fifth set in the last game. When it ended, Opelka yelled, “Come on!” and then pounded his chest.
“At the end, he went for it,” Wawrinka said. “He went bigger than me, and he deserved to win.”
So maybe it’s time for Opelka to stop downplaying his chances this fortnight.
Before facing Wawrinka, Opelka called it a “brutal matchup”.
Afterward, Opelka referred to Wawrinka as “the main attraction”.
Tonight, in his first appearance in third round of any Grand Slam tournament, Opelka will face someone else he labelled “the favourite” — 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic, who is seeded 15th.
“He’s as good as it gets when it comes to grass, so really, really excited for that matchup,” Opelka said. “It’s going to be a really big challenge playing a guy as good as he is on this surface.”