Getting to know: Christopher O’Connell
Find out more about Christopher O'Connell, who reached new heights in 2020 and is verging on a top-100 breakthrough.
Patience and hard work paid off for Christopher O’Connell in 2020. The 26-year-old from Sydney scored his first Grand Slam main draw win at the US Open and set a career-high ranking of No.111.
The resilient competitor, who has overcome several injury setbacks during his tennis journey, is determined to continue chasing his dreams …
I started playing when I was around five. My mum used to play social tennis and she would put me in the day care at the tennis centre. Once I got big enough, she put me into squads while she would play her social tennis.
When I was growing up I loved Lleyton Hewitt, Pat Rafter and an Argentine player Gaston Gaudio, who won the French Open in the early 2000s. He had a nice one-handed backhand, so I quite enjoyed watching him.
My coach Fernando Ibarrola. He is an Argentine who lives in Sydney, and took me on when I was about eight years old. We still work together. He even travelled with me to an ATP Challenger event at the start of the year in New Caledonia. My dad has been influential too. He is always coming to my training sessions and we are always talking tennis. He’s been there since day one as well.
It's one of the fascinating stories of the #USOpen . In 2018, Chris O'Connell hung up his racquet to clean boats in his hometown of Sydney.
Now, the 🇦🇺 is facing Medvedev in the second round.
More on @chrisoconnelll ⬇️
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) September 3, 2020
School wasn’t hard for me to manage because I wasn’t travelling much. My parents were keen on me finishing secondary school, so I didn’t travel the world and play in junior ITF events. I played in some AMTs (Australian Money Tournaments) instead.
A baseliner with a solid serve, who bases my game around my forehand.
It changes all the time. I enjoy playing on clay week in, week out in Europe. But also I’ve grown up on the Australian hard courts, so I love playing on them as well.
My first ATP Challenger title win was in Italy on the clay in August last year, that was up there. Also winning my second ATP Challenger in the US, in California against Steve Johnson in the final, that was also a very proud moment of mine. Obviously playing in the Australian Open too, nothing can beat that.
What a difference a year makes.
Chris O'Connell finished the 2018 season outside the Top 1,000 after missing six months with a knee injury.
Now, the 🇦🇺 is up to a career-high No. 149 with his second 🏆 of the year in Fairfield. pic.twitter.com/gwZD9tIZVg
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) October 13, 2019
Grigor Dimitrov. I played him in my first Australian Open in 2017. What I learnt is that at that level, the game is just a lot quicker and I needed to adapt to that level of tennis if I want to crack the top 100. Everything was quicker, it was harder to read his serve and I just felt I was rushed the whole time.
I quite like playing the ATP Challengers in Italy. They always get good crowds and generally are at really nice clubs.
About four or five years ago I was playing Futures in Croatia on an island called Bol, off Split. That was pretty amazing. It’s a holiday destination – but there just so happened to be a lot of Futures in a row there.
Stan Wawrinka’s one-handed backhand.
I’d love to play with Nick Kyrgios. I played with him when we were a lot younger in under 12s, but to team up once more would be pretty fun.
I really don’t know, maybe some sort of tradie? I started playing tennis so early and always knew that’s what I wanted to do.
I read a book by Steve Prefontaine, who was a runner from Oregon in the US. He had a quote that I always stick by, which is “if you give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift”.
Build a daily routine. I found that has helped me a lot in the past couple of years to improve my ranking a lot more. I plan my week – when I’m going to hit, when I’m going to stretch and have my down time – and stick to it.
A man of few words.
We get to experience things that not a lot of other people do. We get to travel a lot, meet new people and experience different cultures. I think that all helps make you a better person.