Tennis Prose




Oct/21

12

Reilly Opelka: “The tennis media sucks.”

Reilly Opelka dropped a bombshell opinion at the US Open which did not get a lot of traction, for understandable reasons.

Displeased by the offensive treatment by the tennis media regarding the habitual bathroom breaks of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Opelka defended the ATP world no. 3 from the onslaught of criticism and lashed out in emphatic terms.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I understand it’s getting press because tennis media sucks and they’re terrible,” Opelka said at a US Open press conference. “It’s hot and humid, and for the media, the press that have never stepped foot on a tennis court in their life, have never been in the environment, couldn’t last thirty minutes out in this humidity, in this heat. It’s physical, our sport is. My shoes are dripping, they’re leaking sweat. To change or to go after two sets we’re drinking, we’re hydrating a lot, we have to use the bathroom. To change socks, shoes, my inserts in my shoes, shorts, shirts, everything, the whole nine yards, hat, it takes five, six minutes.”

“I don’t know Tsitsipas, I don’t know his situation, I doubt he’s getting coached. I highly doubt it. Today I couldn’t even take my bag in to change. I’m like, guys, my clothes and shoes are in here. You can come in and stand with me if you want.”

But the fact of the matter is Opelka called out the tennis media and bashed them in the most severe, forceful way. And it was not for just this one controversial topic but for overall body of work. The Tsitsipas controversy was just the tipping point.

It’s quite possible Opelka’s media opinion is how the majority of players really feel about the media and the lackluster, elementary coverage they give the sport.

As one prominent magazine editor told me: “I find the most boring tennis writing on the ATP/WTA websites which I read daily due to my work: Full of cliches, overused metaphors and analogies, rarely any surprises and flat.”

It seems almost every article about a tennis players includes the same bullet points every single time – I’m working hard, hard work pays off, I played well, the crowd support helped me thank you, it’s amazing to be at this point in the tournament, I’m focusing on my game, I looked up to that player as a kid, I trusted the process, blah blah blah.

It’s easy to understand why Opelka is disappointed by the tennis media, especially the ones who focus on pushing political agendas or specialize in smear campaigns against certain elite champions. Tennis is an amazing sport, arguably the most intriguing and exciting sport in the world right now, but most of the media coverage of the sport fails to capture it’s essence.

Noah Rubin is another player who took a swipe at the tennis media when he was moved enough to take the initiative – in the midst of his ATP career – and create his own platform – the popular “Behind The Racquet” interview series with tennis players that steers away from talking too much about forehands and backhands.

Opelka declared a war of sorts on the tennis media, but not necessarily to destroy it. More so to challenge tennis reporters and publications to raise their games and create more interesting, insightful, informative content and less boring, flat, cliched wastes of ink and time.

The 24-year-old Opelka is one of the most interesting characters in professional tennis today, a very intelligent, unique person with diverse interests. But if you listen to the tennis media, you probably think he’s just another big serve robot from Florida…

Opelka, who lost to Grigor Dimitrov at the BNP Paribas Open, is currently ranked no. 20 in the world.

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15 comments

  • Bill McGill · October 12, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    Hard to disagree with any of this. Giri Nathan does some good pieces from time to time. Ben Rothenberg has some decent content, but no one will confuse it for literature. I like some of the Craig O’Shannessy stuff, but that’s more data than journalism. Post match pressers are abysmal. Uniformly bad. Tennis seems to attract an inordinate amount of seemingly computer generated (or in any event English-challeneged) content from sites like Express and Tennis World. I have a hard time believing that actual human are writing some of that garbage. Too much tennis commentary comes from older gadflys that do not know what they are talking about anymore. How many more years am I going to have to listen to John McEnroe opine that whatever player he is commenting on does not come to the net enough? Among commentators, Boris Becker is probably the most insightful, but American audiences have to work to listen to him.

  • Erymn · October 12, 2021 at 9:04 pm

    I cannot thank you enough for such great writing and all people to their up to the point reviews.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 12, 2021 at 9:24 pm

    Bill, a few of our readers said they enjoyed this site more than tennis.com, which was one of the nicest compliments we ever got here. It is hard to produce great article after great feature over and over like the old Tennis Week magazine did. But I try my best here. All the tennis media create some good content, I like to think I create the most diverse range of tennis content here, designed more for the hardcore tennis enthusiast, not the basic fan looking for basic bland content.

  • catherine · October 14, 2021 at 1:17 am

    Good writing on any subject is expensive.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 14, 2021 at 8:37 am

    Catherine it is indeed, the new magazine which commissioned me for the Raducanu feature paid the most I’ve been paid in tennis and the publisher was very precise in what he wanted, he made it clear no basic regular cliche abundant articles, he wanted something special, different, insightful and informative. What I delivered was very well received. The issue comes out in a week or two. Hall of Famer Steve Flink had a specific project feature as did Chloe Cooper Jones, who was nominated for a Pulitzer. Pround to be part of a quality writing team.

  • catherine · October 14, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    Are we allowed to know the title ? Or is it a secret ? Perhaps I’ll play detective. I’ve read a piece by Chloe Cooper Jones – in Racquet magazine collection. Original I thought.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 14, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    Ok, I will let you play detective and see what you can find, if you are no Sherlock Holmes I will assist your efforts.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 14, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    Catherine, how is Racquet magazine? I have yet to get my hands on a copy.

  • catherine · October 14, 2021 at 2:11 pm

    Scoop – thanks for your offer of help but I think I’m on the trail – will let you know if I strike gold.

    Breaking News
    Bianca and Emma have both withdrawn from the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Bianca hasn’t announced any injury and has fallen into the 40s now in ranking. Emma may have gone home. I hope so. Bianca is nowhere near the player she was in 2019 and my fear is that she’ll never reach those heights again. I suspect she had some kind of breakdown together with her injury. Women’s tennis is in a bit of a mess. I’m tending to see Angie win in IW.

  • catherine · October 14, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    Scoop – Racquet is still being published as far as I know. Details online. It’s a quarterly and is pretty expensive – too much for me to order from the US. I did buy a book of collected articles from Amazon a year or so ago. I’m not sure how much I like it – not up to date and some articles on the pretentious side. Petko has contributed. (This type of mag has been tried before and didn’t last long.)

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 14, 2021 at 2:31 pm

    Catherine, Andreescu has regressed. she’s basically another Ostapenko now, still a very good player but a far cry from what she was at her best and you wonder in confusion why she went backward instead of forward. To be a superstar no. 1 today is so much hard work extra work, I think these talented girls get a taste of superstardom and instinctively shy away from being the face of the sport. A form of subconscious tanking. Being no. 5 in the world is still a fantastic career and a whole lot less work, pressure, loss of freedom than being an iconic no. 1 superstar. I can easily see Raducanu not winning her second major for years, same deal for Leylah after she bags her first.

  • catherine · October 15, 2021 at 1:29 am

    Yes – have to agree with you here. At 18, Emma is playing far too much and spending too much time on planes. That will take its toll. And the additional pressure of being Brit No 1. For Americans, Serena casts a long shadow.

    I was wrong with Kerber. Badosa beat her easily. Angie looked very tired in the closing games. I’d guess she and Petko will be gone in 2022. End of a great era in German tennis.

    Your article – is the publication anything to do with the Mabadala exho in Abu Dhabi ? These events are good launching pads for glossies and they pay well. Otherwise I give up.

    There’s another exho Nov 28 at the Albert Hall in London, starring guess who ? but I doubt it would be that.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 15, 2021 at 8:31 am

    Catherine, Badosa did not win that match easily vs Kerber, it was very hard earned and tight at the finish, and Badosa’s reaction after finally closing it out was pure relief and joy. Kerber still has a lot of fight left in her tank and she is still highly ranked. Kerber will play beyond 2022 is my prediction. Badosa is going to win a major in the next two years is another fearless prediction. My article in this new magazine was about Raducanu, the assignment was made weeks even before US Open, it was based on the Wimbledon run, so it all worked out wonderfully, even though I had to alter the article as she did even better at US Open (we were worried she might even lose in qualies because the photographer was not available to shoot until main draw). So it all worked out well. I’m not sure about the business end of the magazine and how the debut will be promoted but I do know it’s a major and serious endeavor.

  • catherine · October 15, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    Scoop – if Angie skips AO I think it’ll tell us which way she’s going. Apparently she was contemplating giving up earlier this year. Not for the first time. She’s just getting a little slow now and that’s not helping her. Maybe she’s keeping her options open. She has her Academy to run and earlier this year she told a German magazine that she wants a settled home. I predict she and Petko will retire at the same time.
    BTW CSN was at Badosa’s match. In what role I don’t know.

    I’ll keep a lookout for the new mag. Still have a few contacts here.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 16, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Catherine, Kerber losing to Badosa in a close match does not look so bad now. Beating Kerber might be the best win of Badosa’s career and it could be the one that opens the door to the first major. I see plenty of fight left in Kerber. If you want to talk about players who look finished – Venus, Serena, Vandeweghe, Stosur in singles, Konta, Bouchard, Clijsters.

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