Bendigo, VIC, 16 January 2020 | Asher Packman

The last remaining Australian was eliminated from the Bendigo Challenger on Thursday, with recent Australian Open wildcard recipient Christopher O’Connell succumbing to Italian third seed Stefano Travaglia in straight sets.

O’Connell, 25, said the 6-4 6-2 quarterfinal loss was a tough one. “It’s my second tournament of the year and I felt quite good. Probably the conditions didn’t suit me all that well, I struggled with the wind a bit, but all credit to Stefano, he’s playing some really good tennis at the moment, he had some good wins at the ATP Cup recently.”

The world No.116 enjoyed a break-out year in 2019, making four ATP Challenger finals and racking up two titles.

“I had a huge year and I played a ton of tennis,” he said. “I finished off really strongly in America playing the Challengers. I was going deep most weeks and ended up tallying a lot of matches.”

His success was rewarded with a second wildcard into the Australian Open this year, after playing in 2017.

“It’s such a privilege,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity. But I want to be making all the Slams without any help, so getting into the Top 100 is a huge goal of mine and I’m not far off now.”

O’Connell has a tough test in the opening round at Melbourne Park, facing Russian Andrey Rublev, the No.17 seed.

Elsewhere, three third round matches held over from Wednesday started proceedings with fifth-seeded Bosnian Damir Dzumhur prevailing 6-4 3-6 6-3 over Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki (No.10) before Travaglia eliminated Russian Konstantin Kravchuck prior to his encounter with O’Connell. Second seed Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain came back from a set down to defeat Chile’s Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera (No.13).

Dzumhur was unable to follow up, losing to Italian Andrea Vavasori, while seventh seed Marcos Giron of France ended the hopes of Carballes Baena. Fourth-seeded American Steve Johnson also progressed to the semi-finals defeating Frenchman Harold Mayot. The former world No.21 now faces unseeded Vavasori while Travaglia takes on Giron.

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