Aussie tennis battler hits US Open jackpot

Australian tennis player Chris O'Connell is savouring his maiden grand-slam win after reaching the US Open second round in New York.

JORDAN THOMPSON of Australia plays a backhand during the ydney International at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre in Australia.
JORDAN THOMPSON of Australia plays a backhand during the ydney International at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre in Australia. Picture: Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images

Australian tennis battler Chris O'Connell plans on splashing out on a new car - and a coach - after continuing his extraordinary rise to prominence with a life-changing first-round US Open win.

O'Connell drew on his supreme conditioning to wear down Serbian Laslo Djere 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 on Wednesday for his long-awaited maiden victory at a grand-slam event.

The 26-year-old's reward, apart from a $A136,000 pay day, is a show-court shot at Russian third seed and 2019 runner-up Daniil Medvedev on Friday for a place in the last 32.

"It will be awesome to have a crack against him," O'Connell said.

"I've just got to trust myself and back myself. I think I've got the shots to hurt him.

"I've watched him play plenty of times but he hasn't watched me play too much, I'm guessing. So I guess that's a positive."

It's doubtful that Medvedev has even heard of O'Connell.

Two years ago, the Sydneysider was washing boats on Pittwater Harbour to make ends meet while battling chronic knee issues.

"That was in 2018. I was only 24 and I felt like I had a lot more to give in tennis," O'Connell recalled.

"My plan was always to play tennis again but I was just pretty frustrated with the persistent injuries so I wanted to do something that didn't involve tennis.

"I didn't want to coach tennis so I just cleaned boats."

Not even O'Connell could have imagined how swiftly he would rise from the doldrums.

He soared from outside the world's top 1000 to the cusp of the top 100 last year after reaching 14 finals on the ITF Futures and Challenger tours, collecting five titles.

As a wildcard he showcased his grand-slam potential at the Australian Open in January, where he pushed world No.15 Andrey Rublev to four sets.

Not even COVID-19's five-month shutdown of the tours has been able to stall his momentum.

Ranked 35 spots below Djere, the world No.116 dropped the opening set on his Open debut before mounting a spirited comeback to prevail after three hours and nine minutes.

"I'm super pumped," O'Connell said.

"I've been working harder than I've ever worked just trying to get my fitness levels up and it's pretty comforting that I was feeling awesome out there, feeling extremely fit.

"So it's all paying off."

The breakththrough victory has already doubled O'Connell's 2020 on-court earnings.

"That money is super helpful. I'll definitely be able to hire a coach now," he said.

"I might get a car, I'm not too sure. I haven't got a car.

"But it all goes back into my tennis."