FAIRFIELD, October 14, 2019 (Press Release)
Australian Christopher O’Connell turned in a dominant performance all week at the NorthBay Healthcare Men’s Pro Championship, and that didn’t change at all Sunday, even if the level of opponent did.
The 29-year-old Sydney native needed just one hour, 10 minutes to beat seasoned 29-year-old veteran Steve Johnson of Redondo Beach 6-4, 6-4. O’Connell blitzed through the field all week by winning every ATP Challenger match in straight sets on the tennis courts at Solano Community College in Fairfield.
Johnson came in ranked 99th in the world, owner of four ATP titles and five Challenger crowns. He had a phenomenal collegiate career at USC, won an Olympic bronze medal in 2016 with Jack Sock, and played many times in all four majors. The Californian was 21st in the world and the highest ranked American in 2016.
But that was no concern for O’Connell, a mellow Australian who likes to spend his free time on beaches around the world. He came in ranked 192nd and that will rise with his victory. His game was complete, especially with a pinpoint one-handed backhand that blisters the corners when many opponents use the two-handed grip.
Chris O’Connell takes the title in Fairfield!
The 🇦🇺 has his second 🏆 of the year, toppling Steve Johnson 64 64. A first Top 100 win since 2016 for the Sydney native.
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) October 13, 2019
“I’ve been playing well all week, so I was just sticking to my routine,” O’Connell said. “Thankfully, I was just operating really well out there. I’ve seen (Johnson) play dozens of times on TV, so I knew his game and he probably knew mine as well.”
O’Connell has been playing most of the year on clay after missing much of 2018 with a knee injury and a bout with pneumonia. He won a Challenger on clay in Italy earlier this year. It was only his second tournament on hard court since February and he showed no rust in collecting the win.
“I felt great on the hard court,” O’Connell said. “I’ve had a full year being healthy, no injuries, no needles. Hopefully, I can keep this up.”
O’Connell showed a powerful serve and cracked 13 aces to six for Johnson. He was brilliant on first serves, converting 30 of 32 for points (94 percent). That was much higher than Johnson with 29-of-45 (64 percent). His first service points won (36 percent) also bested Johnson (6 percent).
Johnson had also been cruising through the tournament with straight-set wins in all his matches until the semifinals. He dropped one set to American Kevin King before rolling to the win. He lost the first set to O’Connell in the final, but there was no bounce back this time.
“I thought he played some of the best tennis of his life,” Johnson said of O’Connell. “Too good. And when that happens, you say ‘too good’ and move on. Not much I could have done today. It was great to be in the final, but I was here to win a title. I’m pretty disappointed.”
O’Connell collected $14,000 in prize money and, maybe equally important, 100 ATP points. He came into the tournament 162nd in the world. Johnson collects the runner-up check of $8,480 and 60 ranking points.
O’Connell said he hasn’t been home to Australia since April 1, but it had been a productive year. He has four more tournaments to go this season with the next coming right away. O’Connell got on a flight for this week’s Las Vegas Open.
King/Polansky take doubles title
In doubles, the title went to Darian King of Barbados and Peter Polansky of Canada. They pulled out a 6-4, 3-6, 12-10 victory over Andre Goransson of Sweden and Sem Verbeek of the Netherlands. It was their second career title as partners.
“It was the first time playing those guys and it was pretty tough,” King said. “They played very well and hit a high percentage of first serves. I enjoy playing with Peter. We don’t put too much pressure on ourselves and enjoy the doubles.”
King and Polansky came away with the title prize of $6,200 and 100 doubles points. Goransson and Verbeek collected $3,600 and 60 points.