Reilly Opelka – The New York Times


Opelka, Tiafoe and Brooksby are not alone. Sebastian Korda is 21 and Brandon Nakashima is 20, and both have had success this season as Korda beat three seededs to reach the quarterfinals at the Miami Open and subsequently win the first-round title in Parma, Italy. Nakashima made the singles finals in Atlanta and Los Cabos, Mexico, and upset John Isner, the most successful American of the decade, in the first round of this year’s US Open.

All this was not worth celebrating 25 years ago, but is now considered good news.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” said Stine, who coaches privately with the United States Tennis Association. “Ideally for US tennis we want to have as many men as possible in the top 250, which means we fill the qualifying rounds of the Slams. And then, we need as much as we can get in the top 100. It’s a numbers game after all. Would you rather have 14 in the top 100 than none in the top 20? Or only six in the top 100 and all in the top 20? I think you’ll definitely go with the six, but I think we’re making progress.”

They are a diverse group with a variety of play styles. Consider the three Americans in the last 16. Opelka, which should break into the top 20 after Monday’s Open, is almost two meters tall, with a big game that could make it a face-to-face nightmare. Losing in four sets to Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday night, Tiafoe is a compact powerhouse from College Park, Md.

The newest to this level is Brooksby, a Northern Californian who makes good use of the wild card in the Open. He has an unconventional play that relies on consistency, great defense and sudden rhythm changes, rather than the strength-based style that dominates the men’s round.

“Is his shot good? No. But can it be repeated? That’s exactly and that’s the most important thing,” said Stine, who has known Brooksby since she was 11, “The touch point is clean and it makes a million balls. He really plays the game in its simplest form. Better than you. “I’m going to miss a few balls. I’m going to run and reach all the balls you hit, and I’ll hit you with one more ball. And it was extremely effective and extremely frustrating for your opponents.”

The next challenge for young Americans is to beat enough opponents to start going deep, really deep in the most important tournaments.


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