Australian Open: Wildcard Chris O’Connell is through to the second round
Sydney wildcard Chris O’Connell is ready to resume his top-100 assault after following training partner Aleks Vukic into the second round at this year’s Australian Open.
One day after Vukic stunned 30th seed Lloyd Harris, O’Connell eliminated French left-hander Hugo Gaston 7-6(7-4) 6-0 4-6 6-1 in his latest impressive display this summer.
It’s the second-straight year the 27-year-old won a match at his home grand slam, after upsetting top-40 German Jan-Lennard Struff in 2021.
In between, O’Connell endured more injury misfortune – one of the stories of his career – including an ankle setback that sidelined him for two months from March.
Osteitis pubis kept him out for the same period after the US Open, then in one last blow, he caught Covid-19 in his first tournament back in Bergamo, Italy.
O’Connell slid from his career-high ranking of 111 to No.175 despite qualifying for Wimbledon, beating Jannik Sinner on his way to an ATP 250 quarter-final and making a Challenger final.
Winning instead of losing five-setters to Gael Monfils and Tommy Paul in the first round of Wimbledon and the French Open, respectively, could have changed things as well.
“When I was playing last year; I was playing really good tennis and had good results,” O’Connell said.
“I had a really good December, with not too much time at home – only four weeks of good training.
“I trained a lot with Vukic in Sydney and knew I was playing some good tennis. I’m just happy that I showed it today.”
O’Connell, who joins Vukic, Ash Barty, John Millman, Sam Stosur and Maddison Inglis in round two, overcame the disappointment of losing the third set after being 3-1 up.
Gaston contributed to his own demise, plonking a straightforward volley into the net – after pushing O’Connell out wide – to concede the all-important break in the fourth game of the fourth set.
There was no repeat of the third set, with O’Connell breaking Gaston again to set up a second-round clash with 13th-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman, who beat Serb Filip Krajinovic in straight sets.
“Obviously, he’s an amazing player and makes a million balls,” O’Connell said of Schwartzman.
“I’m going to have to play my best tennis.”
O’Connell’s forehand did most of his damage against Gaston but he also landed north of 70 per cent of his first serves to help keep his 67th-ranked opponent at bay.
The Frenchman was O’Connell’s third top-100 scalp this month.
Originally published as Australian Open: Wildcard Chris O’Connell is through to the second round
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails