Tennis Prose



The Friendly Duel: Fritz vs Opelka 2R AO

Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka are the top two young American prospects, each aged 23 and ranked 31 and 38 respectively. They are not bitter rivals but are actually very good friends, as evidenced by their social media activities.

This is unusual because in the past, young prospects from a nation tended to go it alone and preferred to take an aloof or antagonistic stance with their countrymen. Example that come to mind – Tommy Haas and Nicolas Kiefer, the Agassi/Sampras/Courier/Chang era, McEnroe and Connors, Henin and Clijsters.

Opelka and Fritz and also Tommy Paul clearly like each other and are good friends who spend time together on and off court. So far, the business of tennis has not interfered with friendships, though Fritz has dominated Opelka as a pro, winning three of four matches in the ATP (Fritz won duels in 2020 Antwerp, 2019 Barcelona and 2018 Indian Wells while Opelka won 2019 Tokyo) and Fritz beat Opelka two other times in a Challenger in Newport Beach 2018 and Futures in Spain in 2015.

Fritz has more ATP experience and match play, a 98-102 career match record compared to Opelka’s 48-47 record. Fritz has won over $4m in prize money compared to Opelka’s $2.1m but Opelka has won two ATP singles titles and Fritz only one so far.

You hear the term “there are no friends on the tennis court” but so far these young Americans have contradicted that. Their long term friendship since juniors will endure the dangerous threat of another important high stakes ATP clash in the second round in Melbourne (first clash in a major) because both have strong ambitions to get to the top of the ATP. Fritz holds the mental edge right now but you have to wonder how much longer Opelka will settle for being second banana to his buddy.

Both are professional tennis champions, both desire to be the best. Both know sacrifices must be made to reach the mountain top.

Tomorrow on a court in Australia, Fritz and Opelka will test each other’s tennis prowess and also the depth and value of their friendship.

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