O’Connell Stuns Sinner In Atlanta

Christopher O’Connell (photo: @TennisAustralia/Twitter)

ATLANTA/WASHINGTON, July 30, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

While this week’s Truist Atlanta Open has been heavy on American talent, one of the biggest surprises has turned out to be Australian journeyman Christopher O’Connell.

During Thursday’s afternoon session on Atlantic Station Stadium Court, O’Connell scored the biggest win of his pro career. The 132nd-ranked qualifier from Sydney stunned No. 2 seed Jannik Sinner from Italy, 7-6 (7), 6-4, in an hour and 38 minutes to advance to his first ATP Tour quarterfinal. The victory improved O’Connell’s win-loss record in tour-level events this season to 4-8 and the 23rd-ranked Sinner is the highest-ranked player he’s beaten this year.

O’Connell, 27, served nine aces and won 75 percent (38 of 51) of his first-serve points while facing no break points from Sinner. O’Connell outpointed the 19-year-old Italian 73-69 and capitalized on the only service break of the match to open to second set. It was Sinner’s fourth-straight loss, dropping his win-loss record this season to 24-14, in his first match since since losing to Marton Fucsovics in the opening round at Wimbledon.

“I got here last Wednesday, so I’ve been acclimatising for the past week or so,” O’Connell said on-court after his victory. “Maybe, I was a little off early on, but as I got into the swing of the match I felt pretty comfortable.”

Two years ago while toiling on ATP Challenger Tour, O’Connell compiled a 32-13 record, competed in four finals and won titles in Cordenons, Italy, and Farfield, Calif. (USA). He also built an impressive C.V. playing on the ITF World Tennis Tour in 2019, where he won three titles.

“I’m 27 now, so I need to start making some inroads,” O’Connell said. “I feel confident at the moment.”

Five-time Atlanta champion Isner next for O’Connell

Next, O’Connell will face No. 6 seed and five-time Truist Atlanta Open champion John Isner, who fired 13 aces to beat Jack Sock, 7-6 (6), 6-4, in one hour and 39 minutes in an all-American clash of big hitters Thursday evening. The No. 201 Sock finished with 15 aces but was outpointed 70-65. The 35th-ranked Isner broke Sock to go ahead 5-4 in the second set and served out the win. He won 75 percent (51 of 68) of all of his service points.

“We all know Jack’s an incredible talent. Much like my last opponent in the first round, he’s had a lot of back luck with injuries, so he’s working his way back up,” Isner said during his on-court interview after beating Sock. “Everyone knows he’s way better than his current ranking. It’s good to have him back, because of course the fans love watching him play. It’s just a shame that him and I had to play here in the Round of 16.

“But for me, I’m very, very happy with how I played tonight. I thought I played excellent. Hopefully I can keep it going.”

Also, advancing to Friday’s quarterfinals was 78th-ranked Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, who split the first two sets 4-6, 6-4 with No. 7 seed Benoit Paire of France, then won by retirement after taking a 3-0 lead in the third set. Paire was unable to continue due to extreme heat conditions, in which the local temperature had soared to 93 degrees (Fareinheit).

On Friday, Ruusuvuori will oppose No. 3 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, who needed just 57 minutes to beat Nick Kyrgios of Australia, 6-1, 6-4, in his first match since winning the Los Cabos title last weekend. The No. 29 Norrie hit eight aces, won 83 percent (29 of 35) of his first serves and was not broken on his serve. Norrie outpointed the 58th-ranked Kyrgios 55-36.

Thursday’s Truist Atlanta Open results

Friday’s Truist Atlanta Open order of play

Around Atlantic Station

• Doubles No. 1 seeds Luke Bambridge and Ken Skupski, both from Great Britain, were eliminated in the quarterfinal round by Australian duo Alexei Popyrin and Matt Reid, 3-6, 6-4, 10-6.

Also advancing to the semifinal round were Miguel Reyes-Varela of Mexico and Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador, who beat No. 4 seeds Matthew Ebden and John-Patrick Smith, both of Australia, 6-3, 3-6, 11-9; and the American/Italy duo of Reilly Opelka and Jannik Sinner, who won 7-6 (4), 6-4 over Treat Huey of  the Philippines and Benoit Paire of France. The final semifinal berth will be decided Friday evening when wild cards Nick Kyrgios of Australia and Jack Sock of the United States play American Steve Johnson and Jordan Thompson of Australia.

• Friday’s day session will feature a pair of singles quarterfinals, beginning with Brandon Nakishima of the United States against Australia’s Jordan Thompson at noon followed by No. 5 seed Taylor Fritz against Reilly Opelka, both of the United States. The evening session includes No. 3 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain against Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland followed by No. 6 seed John Isner against qualifier Christopher O’Connell of Australia.