Saturday, October 12, 2019

Obscure O'Connell to face top seed in Fairfield final

   At least twice during today's first semifinal in the Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger, commentator Ken Thomas asked on the live stream, "Who is this guy? Who is Christopher O'Connell?"
   It's a good question.
   O'Connell, a 25-year-old Australian, seems to come out of nowhere to excel in Fairfield. A semifinalist at Solano Community College as a qualifier in 2017, he reached the final of the $108,320 NorthBay Healthcare Men's Pro Championship with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) victory over unseeded Kevin King of Atlanta.
   O'Connell, seeded 12th at a career-high No. 192, is scheduled to meet Steve Johnson, seeded first at No. 99, for the first time on Sunday at 11 a.m. O'Connell will jump to at least No. 160 in Monday's updated rankings.
   Johnson, a 29-year-old resident of Redondo Beach in the Los Angeles area, beat Brandon Nakashima, an 18-year-old wild card from San Diego, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
   O'Connell, a 6-foot (1.83-meter) right-hander with a one-handed backhand, hasn't lost a set in the tournament. He will play in his second consecutive singles final and – brace yourself – 13th of the year. But seven have come in $15,000 tournaments, three in $25Ks and two in $50,000-plus tourneys in remote outposts around the world.
   O'Connell is 4-8 in those finals, including a loss on clay in Sibiu, Romania, three weeks ago in his last tournament.
   It hasn't helped O'Connell's career that he missed several months in 2017 with pneumonia and six months last year with knee tendinitis.
   Johnson, meanwhile, is trying to regain the form that took him to a career-high No. 21 in 2016.
   Sunday's doubles final, which follows the singles title match, will feature two adopted Northern Californians. Fourth-seeded Andre Goransson (Cal, 2014-17) of Sweden and Sem Verbeek (University of the Pacific in Stockton, 2013-16) of the Netherlands will play unseeded Darian King of Bardados and Peter Polansky of Canada.
   Here are the updated Fairfield singles and doubles draws. Live streaming is available.

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