O’Connell stepping into the spotlight at Wimbledon 2023
A career-best run at Wimbledon is thrusting the quiet-achieving Chris O'Connell into the spotlight.
Chris O’Connell’s profile might not be as prevalent as many of his Australian peers, but he’s proving one to watch at the All England Club this year.
The unassuming world No.73 is through to the third round in the Wimbledon 2023 gentlemen’s singles competition.
The 29-year-old from Sydney continued his impressive march through the draw with a convincing 6-3 7-5 6-4 second-round victory today against Czech Jiri Vesely.
Vesely is a talented grass-court player, who has twice advanced to Wimbledon’s fourth round. But it was O’Connell, who had never won a main-draw match at the tournament before this week, who was able to dictate play.
His growing confidence was evident in a two-hour and six-minute encounter, where he struck 36 winners and committed just 15 unforced errors.
This matches O’Connell’s career-best result at Grand Slam level, having also made the Australian Open third round in 2022 as a wildcard.
It also continues a stunning season for O’Connell, who has advanced to five tour-level quarterfinals, across three different surfaces.
His consistency has been rewarded in the ATP Tour rankings, peaking at a career-high world No.70 last month.
This breakout season follows years of toil for O’Connell, who dealt with numerous injury setbacks early in his career.
Five years ago he was unranked and cleaning boats in Sydney to earn money while sidelined with a knee injury.
Last year he made a considered decision to skip contesting qualifying at Wimbledon, where ranking points weren’t being rewarded.
Instead, he played hard-court events on the secondary tour in Spain and Portugal, a move he hoped would help him achieve his long-held dream of breaking into the world’s top 100 sooner.
“This time last year, getting to the top-100 was a huge goal of mine. So to be sitting here a year later, looking at top-50, that’s awesome,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell’s perseverance is certainly paying off now, with a maiden Grand Slam fourth-round appearance in reach.
His next opponent is American Christopher Eubanks, who eliminated British No.1 Cameron Norrie in the third round.
Meanwhile, Alex de Minaur was unlucky to encounter a revitalised Matteo Berrettini this early in his campaign.
The Australian No.1, seeded 15th after his run to the Queen’s Club final, was favoured by many to make a deep run at the All England Club.
It made sense, given his prowess on grass compared to many other players in the top 20.
But in the second round he faced a player perhaps even more potent on the lawns in Berrettini, who ended De Minaur’s tournament 6-3 6-4 6-4.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 7, 2023
Berrettini’s season has been decimated by an abdominal injury; he played just one event between Miami and the grass-court season. And that began inauspiciously when he lost his opening match in Stuttgart 6-1 6-2 to Lorenzo Sonego.
Still, as a back-to-back Queen’s champion in 2021 and 2022, and a Wimbledon finalist in 2021, Berrettini is as comfortable as they come on grass, and quickly rediscovered his touch at the All England Club.
He avenged his loss to Sonego with a four-set win over his countryman, then completely overwhelmed De Minaur on Friday with the brute force of his game.
Berrettini belted 38 winners to the Aussie’s 16, and won almost 90 per cent of his first-serve points.
For most of the match, there was not a lot De Minaur could do except try to get his racquet on as many balls as possible and hope Berrettini would eventually slip from his terrific level.
But it did not happen.
The onslaught began early in the first set, when a rattled De Minaur double-faulted to drop serve in the second game.
Berrettini consolidated the break for 3-0, and after 17 minutes it was 4-1.
He closed out the set with a forehand winner, having won every single point behind his first serve.
De Minaur appeared to be getting a better read on Berrettini’s serve in the second game of the second set, earning two break points.
Yet Berrettini escaped, and broke De Minaur in the very next game to wrest control once more.
The third set was a near-carbon copy of the second, except the break came in the fifth game instead of the third.
Berrettini wrapped it up by the same scoreline, and just like the first set, he did not drop a point on his first serve.
He has now won 34 of his past 38 grass-court matches.
It was a tough day also for Jason Kubler, with No.25 seed Nicolas Jarry halting his progress in the second round.
Kubler had been aiming to replicate his fourth-round progress at the 2022 Championships, but was hampered by both a hamstring problem and an inspired opponent as Jarry claimed a 7-5 5-7 6-3 6-4 victory.
Aussies in action – Wimbledon
Gentlemen’s singles, second round
Chris O’Connell (AUS) d Jiri Vesley (CZE) 6-3 7-5 6-4
Matteo Berrettini (ITA) d  Alex de Minaur (AUS) 6-3 6-4 6-4
 Nicolas Jarry (CHI) d Jason Kubler (AUS) 7-5 5-7 6-3 6-4
Gentlemen’s singles, third round
Chris O’Connell (AUS) v Christopher Eubanks (USA)
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