During the early years of his career, Chris O’Connell was cleaning boats and delivering pamphlets just to sustain his tennis dream.
Competing on the grass courts at SW19 were always on O’Connell’s radar but the reality of one day playing at the All England Club must have felt a world away.
Today, however, the 29-year-old recorded his second career win at Wimbledon, advancing through to the third round to equal his best result at a grand slam event along with his 2022 run at the Australian Open.
O’Connell’s career to date has been an extraordinary turnaround, and as well as trying to find ways to fund his tennis career, the Aussie has had a range of setbacks in recent years including the pandemic, which stifled his development.
“That really halted my progression, and then after covid when we resumed, I had a really bad ankle injury, so I had just back-to-back setbacks,” he said.
This season, O’Connell has played in each major, but it’s only been Wimbledon 2023 where he has played past round one.
O’Connell has recently adopted a new approach to grand slam events which he began only recently in anticipation for Wimbledon.
“I’ve actually changed my approach this grand slam. Previous couple of grand slams I’ve looked at the draw and I don’t think that helps me,” he said.
“This time around I just changed my approach and was focused solely on the match at hand, so after I won my first round, I had no idea who I was playing.”
O’Connell has long been aiming to also crack into the top 50 rankings bracket.
In 2022, he was able to break into the top 100 with his sights firmly set on continuing to build his ranking.
“It’s a huge goal of mine. This time last year top one hundred was a goal of mine so to be sitting here a year later looking at top fifty is awesome,” he said.
“In a way I still feel very young, just a lot of tennis still to be played.”
O’Connell’s win at Wimbledon will see him advancing to the third round where he will meet American World No 43 Chris Eubanks, but the overarching feeling following the win has been excitement.
“Not so much relief today but a lot of excitement, I felt a lot freer and looser out there today,” he said.
“The court played a little bit differently, and it suited my game and I just felt very comfortable from the get-go.”
O’Connell is now the only remaining Australian left out of both the Gentleman’s and Ladies singles with his match set to take place on day six of The Championships.