Australia's Chris O' Connell says he was inspired by players who break into the Top 100 in their late 20s and early 30s when he was away from the game and cleaned boats to make ends meet. O' Connell played more matches than any other professional on the tour last year - 108 matches and won 86 of them.
Speaking to FoxSports in Australia, O' Connell says, “Players are cracking the top 100 in late 20’s early 30’s now, and I still felt like a have a lot to give. Haven’t reached my peak at all, so I just wanted to try to get back out there” O' Connell says the times he spent alone on the lower-level Futures tour have made him a much stronger and tougher person.
“I had a tonne of time on my own, going week-in, week-out, playing a tournament every week. It can only make you stronger and tougher. When you don’t want to play, but you have to. Walking out on court not feeling 100 per cent or a little bit down, but just finding a way to win because you have to”.
One of his more memorable experiences was in Hungary, when he was playing a tournament and the fans were betting on his match as they played. “There were about 20-30 people watching, it was in a public park, and all these people were betting on their phone when I was playing my match.
Giving me ‘c’mons’ when winning points, so that was a weird experience. They kept their space, but it was a bit strange”. After his strong performances in 2019. O' Connell says he is grateful for the wild card that Tennis Australia has provided him.
"It changes everything. Don’t have to think about overnight trains or buses to keep the costs down. Don’t have to pick and choose restaurants going to. All that hard work and grinding each week has paid off. I am so pumped for that, and where my ranking is at the moment, the main goal is the crack the top 100, so I can play the (ATP Tour) tournaments, and all the tournaments going to play in nice locations. Huge change from last year”.