Aussie tennis battler in US Open spotlight

From the backwaters of Europe to one of tennis's biggest stages, Chris O'Connell is one of three Australians chasing a US Open third-round berth on Friday.

JOHN MILLMAN.
JOHN MILLMAN. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Flying under the radar no more, Australian tennis journeyman Chris O'Connell has been thrust into the sport's spotlight for a US Open showcourt showdown with 2019 finalist Daniil Medvedev.

After notching his long-awaited maiden grand-slam win at Flushing Meadows, O'Connell is one of three Australians chasing a berth in the third round on Friday.

But while his more-celebrated countrymen Alex de Minaur and John Millman have both been scheduled for Court 11, O'Connell will take a prime position on Louis Armstrong Stadium, the second biggest arena at the Billie Jean Tennis Centre.

It's a far cry from just two years ago when O'Connell was washing boats for a living on Sydney's Pittwater Harbour.

"He deserves it. We all know his journey that he's been on. It's been incredible," Millman said ahead of his second-round clash with American Frances Tiafoe.

O'Connell has fought his way back from No.1292 in the world in October 2018 to the cusp of the top 100 after claiming 84 victories on the Futures and Challenger tours last year.

"He's gone overseas by himself, he's put in the hard work, he's got all those results pretty much of his own bat and he's really positioned himself to have a crack at that top 100 and to be playing this level week in, week out," Millman said.

"Knowing that I went on probably a similar journey to his, my respect for him is through the roof and hopefully we can keep the wins coming."

De Minaur faces veteran Frenchman Richard Gasquet in his quest to reach at least the third round in New York for the third year running.

But the Australian No.1 is also keeping a close eye on O'Connell's progress.

"He's one of the nicest guys on tour," de Minaur said.

"We played in my first (Australian Open) wildcard playoff and he absolutely dusted me up and what I've always loved is how he hits his groundstrokes.

"Last year he won most matches on tour and that was just him by himself, no coach, no nothing. I mean, the resilience that Chris has is just second to none and what he did, I can tell you right now, I definitely wouldn't have been able to do it."

AUSSIES IN ACTION ON DAY FOUR OF THE US OPEN (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):

Men's singles, second round:

21-Alex de Minaur v Richard Gasquet (FRA) - 1am AEST

John Millman bt Frances Tiafoe (USA) - approximately 4am

Chris O'Connell v 3-Daniil Medvedev (RUS) - approximately 9am