Sydneysider Chris O’Connell has been rewarded for his perseverance after earning a second-round berth at the Australian Open.
- O’Connell defeated Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5), 6-1
- It is the second time O’Connell has reached the second round of a major
- Fellow Australians Astra Sharma and Maddison Inglis both lost their respective matches in the women’s draw
O’Connell, a wildcard in the men’s draw, won his first-round match against Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5), 6-1 on Court Seven at Melbourne Park in what is only the third major he has contested.
Just three years ago, O’Connell was cleaning boats at a marina in Sydney’s Northern Beaches to make a living after taking time out from his professional career because of his frustration with an ongoing knee injury.
He eventually resumed playing in the second half of 2018 but it was not until the following year that he began to make an impression on the ATP rankings.
O’Connell finished the 2019 season ranked 119 in the world prior to contesting last year’s Australian Open where he exited the tournament in the first round.
A year later, O’Connell, now 121 on the ATP rankings, earned just his second win in a major when he defeated the 37th-ranked Struff.
The opening two sets were tight, but the 26-year-old O’Connell hammered home his dominance in the third to win in just over two hours in front of a small crowd on the outside court.
The result means O’Connell matched his best showing at a major, having reached the US Open second round last year.
Among other Australian results on day two, wildcards Astra Sharma and Maddison Inglis went down in the opening round of the women’s draw.
Sharma lost to her higher-ranked opponent Nao Hibino 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 on Court Three.
Inglis produced a spirited display in her 7-5, 6-4 loss to defending champion Sofia Kenin.
Sharma dominated Japan’s Hibino early in their contest, picking up a double break on her way to winning the first set in 35 minutes.
Hibino claimed the second set to force a deciding third, which proved to be an arm wrestle.
Sharma was broken in the opening game and trailed 0-2 before reeling off three straight games to shift the set back on serve.
The decisive moment came in the 11th game when the 76th-ranked Hibino broke the Australian’s serve to establish a 6-5 lead, before holding to close out the match in the following game.
Inglis, 133 on the WTA rankings, showed no signs of being overawed when she faced Kenin on Rod Laver Arena in what was her first Australian Open appearance since 2016.
She broke Kenin’s serve twice during the contest and fought to the end, illustrated when she saved two match points.
But the fourth-seeded Kenin eventually prevailed in one hour and 26 minutes.