Clay Court Championship Week
Opelka Survives Heat for Title at 14s Clays
by Marcia Frost, 27 July 2011
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The Jimmy Evert Tennis Center at Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was once again the home of the USTA Boys' 14 Clay Court Championships. The 2011 event brought a lot of changes, with a compass draw, a drop in the number of entrants from 192 to 128, and the elimination of two days. One thing that didn't change was the tournament's ability to showcase talent, and the spectators were treated to some great competition.
Despite the upset of second-seeded Robert Seby
in the first round by Brenden Volk
, and the loss of top-seeded Martin Joyce
who retired injured in the round of 16, all the players who reached the quarterfinals were seeds. This brought some tight matches where only the toughest survived - both the competition and the extreme heat. The final four would be quite a mixed group: No. 8 Cameron Klinger
of San Jose, California; No. 4 Francis Tiafoe
of College Park, Maryland; No. 16 Reilly Opelka
in Palm Coast, Florida; and No. 12 Catalin Mateas
of Braintree, Massachusetts.
Both of the semifinal singles matches went to three sets, with Klinger prevailing over Tiafoe, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, and Opelka sneaking past Mateas, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was not, however, a sign of what was to come. On Friday, the hottest and most humid day of the week, the final match and the third place playoff would finish simultaneously in similar fashion. The spectators would be treated to some great points, but it would be clear who was in charge on both courts. Reilly Opelka was the champion with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Klinger, and Tiafoe would be the bronze ball winner with a 6-0, 6-3 score over Mateas.
It's been quite a year for 14 year old Reilly Opelka of Palm Coast, Florida. In January, he took third place at the Nike Junior Tour Cheval Winter Sectional, and two weeks later he won the USTA Regional Tournament in Coral Springs. It wasn't long after that when he took first place at another local event, Harry Gilbert's Super Series, only to take home two trophies a week later - singles fourth place and doubles first place - at a National Open. He didn't slow down at any time, winning or placing at three more events before heading to the Claycourts for his third Gold Ball, as he had swept the USTA Spring Nationals in the 12s.