Photograph: Alex Johnstone
Australian wildcard Christopher O’Connell has booked his place in the second round of the Australian Open for the second year in a row, taking down Frenchman Hugo Gaston 7-6(4), 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 in two hours and 35-minutes on Court 8.
The 27-year-old Sydneysider, who had the only break point opportunity of the opening set wasn’t able to convert it but won 80% of points on his first serve to clinch the set in a tiebreaker.
It was full steam ahead for O’Connell from that point onwards, as he sped through the second set 6-0 in just 33 minutes.
The match looked all but over as the Aussie carried his momentum into the third set to lead 3-1, but the Frenchman wasn’t going down that easy. Hitting just five unforced errors for the set, Gaston fought his way back into the match and forced a fourth set.
"Yeah, I mean, the finish line was very close. I was up 3-1. Yeah, he just hung around. I played a few scrappy games. I was struggling a little bit one end with the sun, a little bit windy. I back my mental state on court. Yeah, I just knew I had to regroup. If I regrouped then I could, yeah, take the momentum," O'Connell explained in his post-match press conference.
With a boisterous crowd right behind him, O’Connell managed to regain his composure, blazing away from within the Frenchman’s reach to take the fourth set, and with that the match.
"[I] trained hard over December. Yeah, it feels good that it's paid off.
I felt that my match had quite a good crowd presence, so had really good support out there," O'Connell stated.
The Sydneysider has been working with former Australian world No. 39 Marinko Matosevic since early last year and feels his game has improved significantly in that time.
"I started working with him [Matosevic] in March, April last year. We've been together all of last year. We're starting off again this year. That's been really good. He's helped my game a lot. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get on court that much last year. Hopefully, I can be 100% healthy this year, yeah, have some good results. Yeah, he's been awesome for my game," O'Connell said.
In a bid to reach the third round of a major for the first time in his career, O’Connell will take on No. 13 seed Diego Schwartzman in the second round on Thursday.
"Yeah, it's a good matchup. Obviously, he's an amazing player, makes a million balls. I'm going to have to play my best tennis. Yeah, I'm confident. Really looking forward to it," O'Connell said.