Reilly Opelka has enjoyed the best ATP Masters 1000 run of his career at the Western & Southern Open, advancing to the quarter-finals with a win against 2019 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier Matteo Berrettini. Plenty of people would dream of achieving that result, but even more would be jealous of the treat he’s been having at his hotel each night.
“I’ve been ordering Cold Stone Creamery on Postmates every single night,” Opelka said. “It gets to my hotel in 15 minutes so it’s not melted. It gets up to my room and I go to town.”
The American has been eating sweet cream-flavoured ice cream with Oreo, marshmallow and whipped cream. That’s about as sweet as his serve, with which he’s won 30 of his 32 service games this week. The Cold Stone Creamery “play” has been an improvisation for the 22-year-old.
In normal times, most players would be staying in Manhattan while in New York. Opelka is a self-proclaimed ‘foodie’, who loves trying nice restaurants in the city, including spots like Marea, Per Se and Le Coucou. But because of the pandemic, that’s off the table.
“It’s been tough. Honestly I’ve been eating a lot at the courts. The food here is great,” Opelka said. “The service has been really well done. We order with a QR code. Wherever you take a picture of a QR code, you order, wherever you’re hanging out, you specify and it’s there in 10 minutes. You don’t have to wait in line.
“The dining area upstairs is always a zoo [during normal times] with everyone and their families and their friends. From that standpoint it’s nice.”
During this stretch, players are either at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center — home to this year’s Western & Southern Open as well as the US Open — or their hotel. Many of them have either brought food back from the tennis venue to the hotel, ordered room service or had food delivered to the hotel, which is permitted. American John Isner has taken advantage of that option.
“I was able to get Capital Grille picked up for us [on Saturday], which was very good. We are trying to mix things up and not try the same restaurant too many times so it doesn’t get stale,” Isner said. “It hasn’t been at all bad. Can’t complain at all. The USTA and ATP have done an incredible job of putting on this event and keeping us players comfortable in the bubble. It’s definitely not what we’re used to. I would certainly prefer to walk the streets of Manhattan and go find a nice restaurant to eat at, but all in all, it’s not bad at all.”
Rajeev Ram, who won this year’s Australian Open doubles title alongside Joe Salisbury, likes the food truck option, which the USTA has commissioned to one of the player hotels each night.
“I’ve really enjoyed that they’ve had these food trucks for us,” Ram said. “One night it was tacos, one night it was pizza, one night it was barbecue. That’s pretty cool that since we can’t leave the hotel, they brought some different food options to us. You sit outside, hang out, eat your meal and just kind of get away from the bubble. I thought that was a pretty good initiative.”
For some players, food is a major part of their culture. Andreas Seppi said that he and his fellow Italians are trying to make the most of the situation.
“It’s pretty difficult for a lot of guys, especially us Italians, to find something good to eat,” Seppi said. “Most of the days it’s the same. Sometimes we just bring something from the club like sushi or make a Shake Shack order. At least their burgers are good. It’s really difficult, but most of the time it’s just steak or some meat just down at the restaurant.”
Moldovan Radu Albot added that while he normally enjoys a Brazilian restaurant, Fogo de Chao, and the popular Nobu in Manhattan, he rarely strays far from the hotel anyway. He is not a picky eater, either.
“I’m fine to eat anything. I like very much to eat Asian cuisine. I like Japanese food,” said Albot, who got something delivered to his hotel for the first time Tuesday evening through Uber Eats. “I ordered from an Asian restaurant, Thai food… Normally I was eating downstairs in the hotel.”
According to German Jan-Lennard Struff, there hasn’t been much talk between players about how they’ve adapted to the food situation in the controlled environment.
“I’m not talking that much to other guys about what to order. Us guys are experienced enough to find what is good,” Struff said. “But if one guy would say, ‘That restaurant is amazing’, I would probably try to order there. We’re ordering a lot of food like anywhere else, sometimes when we don’t want to walk out. But obviously we would love to go to Manhattan for sure and I heard that the restaurants are doing a good job because every street has tables on the street. I would love to see that, but it’s not the time for that. That’s okay, I’m [just] happy to be here.”