Big-serving American Reilly Opelka is loving life on court, having reached the third round at the US Open without dropping a set. This is the first time the 24-year-old has advanced that far at his home country’s Grand Slam.
Opelka is not just excited because of his results, though. The Florida-resident loves spending time in New York City, from walking to his favourite breakfast spots to taking in the city’s culture.
Opelka recently spoke to ATPTour.com about his early trips to New York, his favourite restaurants in the city, places he enjoys visiting and more.
Do you remember growing up what you first thought of New York and how different it was?
The first time I went to New York I was 16 or 17 and I didn’t know what to expect. It was a culture shock almost for me. It was like, ‘Wow, this is the coolest thing in the whole world.’ A lot of people think that right away and then usually after two weeks, people get burnt out, fried. Then there are some who just love it and that’s how I am.
I love being able to walk to get coffee, walk everywhere for breakfast. I like to get up from my hotel, go walk and get coffee, a bagel from different places. You see something entertaining on the walk, you get on the subway and see something entertaining. It’s never boring.
Where are the best food spots in New York?
It’s hard to say, there are so many. It’s on another level. You have so much diversity and it’s a real business up there. People dress up for it, it’s a big occasion and there are so many option and so much history in so many restaurants there. What’s interesting is Eleven Madison Park, one of the greatest restaurants in New York, went fully plant-based. That will be interesting for me to try.
Obviously I like Crown Shy a lot, they just opened up a new one, a new concept that’s opening up. Really excited to try that one. I have a really good breakfast spot I like called Sadelle’s. I’ll definitely be enjoying breakfast there. The list is long for me.
What’s your favourite part about New York in general?
I really like the culture a lot. I like the culture, the hustle. There are differences. Miami has gone a little bit LA in some senses, but if you show up 15 minutes late, you’re still 15 minutes early. If you have a party for four or six at dinner at 7:30 and I show up at 7:45, I’m the first one there. It’s more of a scene.
In New York if you have a 7:30 reservation, everyone is there at 7:30. Everyone is getting there the same way. They’re all taking the subway, it’s the quickest way to go. The culture is like no other. It’s a really crazy city, the energy is nuts. You get some characters. I like cities that have a lot of diversity, but there’s also a New York culture. You can tell when someone is a New Yorker and that’s a total compliment.
What’s an example of a character you’ve seen?
There’s a page on Instagram you can follow called @whatisnewyork and you just see some random stuff going on. It’s unbelievable. Obviously the usual sounds and the smell of garbage are things that are common for me there. It’s like those Febreze commercials. Put me somewhere and you might not know where you are blindfolded. But New York is New York, you know where you are when you’re there.
A lot of people know about the main New York tourist spots like the Statue of Liberty. Where would you recommend people go that is off the radar?
A lot of the players, they’re all in Midtown and that’s what they think of New York, but that’s so corporate. There’s a lot. There’s a hidden gem even in Harlem, a good barbecue spot, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Milos Raonic actually told me about it. That’s a real New York experience.
There are so many different parts of New York you can hang out in. I like West Village and Greenwich Village. That’s real, old-school, elegant New York, which is really cool. Unfortunately none of the players get to experience it because they’re in Midtown. I hang out more in Downtown, near West Village.