Reilly Opelka Continues Rise With First ATP Title at New York Open Express News

Schnur, of Pickering, Ontario, reached a career-high ranking of 154th entering this tournament — but he almost did not even earn a berth in New York. He was granted the last alternate spot in the qualifying draw and won both of those matches to advance to the main draw. There, he won four more matches, including upsets of third-seeded Steve Johnson and sixth-seeded Sam Querrey, to earn a spot in the final.

As a relatively new tournament — the event moved to Long Island from Memphis after 2017 — the New York Open was not filled with many of the best players in the world, creating an easier path to victory for outsiders like Opelka and Schnur.

A former college player at the University of North Carolina, Schnur has one attribute that will endear him to those bothered by tennis’s pace of play: He does not bounce the ball before serving. Most players bounce it at least a few times and some, like Rafael Nadal, often bounce it repeatedly, to the chagrin of certain spectators and opponents.

But Schnur stands at the baseline, waits for his opponent to get into the ready position, then coils and simply tosses the ball into the air before hammering away at it. He said he had started doing it that way while playing on the uneven grass of warm-up tournaments ahead of Wimbledon. Schnur said the unpredictable bounces affected his rhythm and threw him off.

He exhibited remarkable nerve in the New York Open, though, saving two match points against Johnson in their second-round match. He beat Jack Lin, a Columbia University student who earned a wild card into the event, in the first round, and then beat Johnson and Paolo Lorenzi before facing Querrey.

“Mental toughness is something I’ve been working really hard on,” Schnur said after his semifinal win. “People say tennis is a mental game, but you don’t really believe it until you are put in those situations, and now I’m a huge believer.”

But on this day, Opelka’s nerve, and serve, held just a bit stronger.

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