Aussie O’Connell keeps up ace clay-court form in Madrid
April 27, 2023 / 11:10 pm
Ever-improving Sydneysider Chris O’Connell has continued his impressive winning ways in Madrid, fresh from enjoying the best tournament of his career in Germany.
O’Connell, who defeated Alexander Zverev before reaching only his second ATP semi-final in Munich last week, was left celebrating a hard-earned 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 win over Serbian Filip Krajinovic in the first round of the Madrid Open on Thursday.
On a much faster clay-court than he had played on in Germany, and with the balls flying faster at altitude in the Spanish capital, O’Connell adapted confidently to the change and will be kicking himself he did not wrap up his win in the Masters 1000 event an hour earlier.
Quite dominant for most of the first two sets, the 28-year-old Aussie had held two match points at 5-3 in the second, only for Krajinovic to summon up real courage and inspiration to rescue the game, then take the initiative to dominate the tiebreak.
The world No.81 O’Connell, ranked two places behind his opponent, seemed a bit shell-shocked and was immediately broken at the start of the deciding set.
But he’s shown his resilience all season, and roared back, getting his big forehand and serve working more effectively again – he delivered 15 aces in all – as he reeled off the next four games.
Krajinovic threatened more resistance as he rescued two more match points but, eventually, a weary-looking backhand into the net after two hours 19 minutes ensured O’Connell landed a tough second-round date with eighth seed Taylor Fritz.
He’s still the only Australian to have won a match in Madrid so far, with compatriot Jason Kubler later on Thursday suffering a comprehensive 6-3 6-3 defeat to another Serbian opponent, Dusan Lajovic.
Lajovic still doesn’t seem to have come down to earth after the biggest triumph of his life in Banja Luka last week when he defeated his friend Novak Djokovic en route to the second title of his career.
The clay-court specialist was always in command against Australian No.3 Kubler, breaking him three times while not giving up a single break point himself, reeling off the win in an hour and 23 minutes.
Alex de Minaur, who got a first-round bye, will be the last Australian to make his bow this year when he plays qualifier Marco Cecchinato in the second round on Saturday.
Elsewhere, two-time Madrid champion Andy Murray lost to 164th-ranked qualifier Andrea Vavassori 6-2 7-6 (9-7) while former US Open champ Dominic Thiem beat another Briton Kyle Edmund 6-4 6-1 to set up a tasty-looking second-round match with Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I am looking forward to that one a lot,” Thiem told reporters. “I like him a lot. He is an unbelievable player, I like watching his matches. He is very elegant. We’ve had some great match-ups.”
(C) AAP 2023
Chris O’Connell has continued his fine form, winning his opening match at the Madrid Open. (AP PHOTO)