Sunday, October 13, 2019

Aussie O'Connell defeats top seed for Fairfield title

   Once again, live-stream commentator Ken Thomas put it best.
   "Christopher O'Connell may be the best player you've never heard of," Thomas said during today's broadcast.
   The 12th-seeded O'Connell completed a spectacular week with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over top-seeded Steve Johnson in the final of the $108,320 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship in Fairfield, Calif.
   O'Connell, a 25-year-old Australian, did not lose a set en route to the biggest title of his career. All week at Solano Community College, the 6-foot (1.83-meter) right-hander served brilliantly and displayed a devastating one-handed backhand along with a punishing forehand.
   "I love playing in California," O'Connell, a Fairfield semifinalist as a qualifier in 2017, said during the awards ceremony. "It feels a lot like home."
   Unseeded Darian King of Barbados and Peter Polansky of Canada won the doubles title, beating fourth-seeded Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., 2013-16) of the Netherlands 6-4, 3-6 [12-10].
   Polansky, 31, was severely injured in a three-story fall from his hotel room in Mexico in 2007. He needed 550 stitches in his legs and back after having a night terror and trying to escape through the window.
   Doctors initially suggested amputating one of Polansky's legs. Four months later, he reached the boys singles final in the U.S. Open.
   O'Connell won his fifth title of the year in 13 finals, including five in a row in $15,000 tournaments in Australia and Turkey in March and April. Two other finals came in $15Ks, three in $25Ks and three in $50,000-plus tournaments.
   O'Connell missed several months with pneumonia in 2017 and six months early last year with knee tendinitis. Unranked at the beginning of 2019, he will soar 43 places to a career-high No. 149 on Monday.
   Johnson, a 29-year-old resident of Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles area, will rise 13 notches to No. 86. The United States Davis Cup veteran climbed to a career-high No. 21 in 2016.
   In today's final, O'Connell pounded 13 aces, committed only two double faults and did not face a break point. He won 30 of 32 points (94 percent) on his first serve and 12 of 18 (67 percent) on his second delivery.
   O'Connell broke Johnson's serve in the last game of the match. Johnson lost the first two points but hammered a service winner for 15-30. O'Connell then ripped two forehand passing shots, the last one on Johnson's first serve, for the title.
   O'Connell earned $14,400, and Johnson collected $8,480.


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