Since quite a few years already, really tall Reilly Opelka (*97 / USA) looked with his 6’11” (211 cm) like the potential replacement of the slowly declining aging giant Ivo Karlovic (CRO) who is observing the world and the tennis courts from about the same height like Reilly himself. When I saw Reilly at the 2014 Orange Bowl over 3 years ago, I have expected him to become quite a serious pro tour contender in the following 2-3 years. While seeing his qualification match at the 2017 French Open (epic 3-set win against Daniel Munoz-de la Nava – ESP), I was rather negatively surprised by the state of his game development. It is surely difficult to state a clear opinion about a player after seeing just a part of one match, but there were clear signs, which showed to an experienced coach, that Reilley’s development was rather a bit troubled as both his service and his forehand seemed to have in many cases rather less body energy integration (less of the efficient body energy unloading) than it was the case in the end of 2014.
Below, I am comparing Reilley’s forehands at these two above mentioned events, all photos are from his serving games. I am surely aware that the coordination and an exact footwork are challenging at Reilly’s size, but what I am focusing at is the way how he approaches the given strokes as this gives me certain information about the mental image of the stroke in his mind. In the case of an optimal “3 Step Tennis Stroke Regulation”, the player puts the priority at the creation of the sufficient space for the stroke, which will make a long elbow motion away from the center of the gravity in the form of a long axis pronation combined with an optimal rotation-based body energy unloading into the stroke possible. In the case of the focus on the hitting arm activity, however, the body energy unloading mostly stays to a big degree behind… Very tall and thus rather weaker movers like Karlovic or Isner put big focus on the creation of the space for the forehands, which they “have to play”, mainly in their serving games. Even they can’t make it every time, but the proper mental image of the intended stroke/action increases the percentage of the strokes played with the optimal “3 Step Tennis Stroke Regulation”, which is making the body energy dominance of the strokes possible. Comparing Reilly’s forehand from 2014 and 2017, I am having the feeling that the mental image of his forehand might have changed, rather not for a better one….
This article covers certain aspects of Reilly Opelka’s forehand and forehand in general only! Further photos, more details about his forehand and other strokes as well as about the strokes of other players are available upon request at drmgb11(at)gmail.com. Some significant details of this kind, necessary for a top tennis performance as well as for a sustainable tennis training/development in general, are being discussed also in the seminar “TENNIS 3.0 – Future of the Game”, which is available worldwide upon request – www.tennis30.com / www.tennis30.cz
Photos (December 2014 & May 2017) & text (January 2018) copyright by Dr. Martin G. Baroch. Any further publication of either any of the photos and/or texts with the explicit written permission from the author/copyright owner only!!