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January 20, 2022

Christopher O'Connell

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

C. O'CONNELL/D. Schwartzman

7-6, 6-4, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Massive congratulations to beat someone of the caliber of Diego. You must be ecstatic right now.

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Yeah, it's the biggest win of my career. To do it at the Australian Open, second round, it's an unbelievable feeling.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. It's going to be the obvious answer, but have you ever been happier and more excited at the end of a tennis match? What did it really feel like when that last point was played?

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Yeah, no, it's the best feeling I've ever had on a tennis court. Been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this, yeah, it's a dream come true. It's a little corny, but yeah, it is.

Q. Do you mind talking us through what preparation you did with your team? It was evident you had a clear game plan today. Talk us through that process.

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Well, yeah. I mean, the process didn't start yesterday. It's been happening all of last year. I've been working with Marinko. He's just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It's the first time I've really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.

Marinko was such a great player. Yeah, all his knowledge of the game, he's just putting it onto me. Yeah, like I said, the preparation started a year ago when I started working with him.

Q. We asked you after your last match how tough it was going to be against this guy. You said he would make a million balls. The first set goes for 90 minutes. Tell us about that set and the tense moments and pressure you had to go through to get that lead.

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat. It was just getting hotter and hotter.

I just hung tough, really tried to use the crowd's energy, which I haven't done that really in the past. I mean, last year I didn't really take in my surroundings all that much on that court. This time when I walked out on court, I really took it in, really got to know the court. I think that helped me get the first set.

Q. You could probably see the finish line at 4-2 in the third. Could you take us through your mindset when he broke back, how you were able to regroup. Just that process of you could see it, then he leveled it back up.

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Yeah, that's a thing with getting the early break. You've got a lot of time to think about holding for the next few games to finish off the match. The balls are starting to really get chewed up, so I knew it was going to be tougher to hold serve. Also tougher for him to hold serve, as well, easy for me to return.

I was just confident, even though I did get broken at 4-3, that if I played a solid game, I could break him back. That's what happened, yeah.

Q. When you talk about engaging with the crowd perhaps for the first time, are you talking about being aware of them or almost making them a part of it, a one-sided affair?

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Both. Last year when I played on that court, yeah, I felt like I didn't really look around. I was just in my own little world.

But this time, yeah, I really tried to just take it all in, just look around, yeah, just really feed off the crowd energy. Yeah, it's amazing to have crowds.

Q. There were a couple of good results the middle of the year. Say 13 months ago when you were in lockdown, could you have imagined being in this situation?

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: No, not at all. Even just after last year, it was just such a long year, being away for so long. Yeah, I mean, no, I can't.

Q. Tactically, I noticed you were pushing him back deep with a topspinning backhand. Was that part of your game plan, to push him deep?

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Yeah, he's so good at moving side to side. He makes a lot of balls.

But I feel I have most shots; I've got a slice; I can rip it like a clay-courter; I can hit it a bit flatter.

I just mixed everything up and it seemed to work.

Q. Have you looked ahead at who you've got next round?

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Yeah, I didn't actually know who I was going to be playing until I got in the gym and started cooling down. But, yeah, completely different player to Schwartzman, which is going to be interesting. I played Isner in Atlanta last year, which, yeah, was an experience.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to playing Cressy. He's in really good form.

Q. Over the years you've always had the belief you can get a result like this, but to actually have the result now, what does this do for your mindset and confidence in general?

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Yeah, I knew I had good results in me. It's just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me. I maintained the level throughout the whole match.

But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I mean, I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can't be doing that.

Yeah, belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body's healthy this year. I want to play a full year.

Q. The level of tournaments that you've been playing is not going to necessarily make you a millionaire. Irrespective of what happens, to pick up no doubt the biggest paycheck of your career over here, how important is that going to be for the rest of the year?

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Yeah, I mean, firstly I'm not in the top hundred, so I got a wild card. I think I'm thankful to Tennis Australia for giving me the opportunity to be in the third round now. If it wasn't for them, I'd be playing qualifying.

Yeah, I mean, that money is just going to go straight back into my tennis, keep investing in my coach Marinko. I have a physical trainer in Split, in Croatia. Yeah, it's just all going to go into my tennis. I feel like I've got a good team with me now, yeah.

Q. You have a physical trainer in Croatia. You spent a couple weeks there last year. How do you manage that in your season? Do you plan to go straight to Croatia before playing a couple tournaments or do they join you on the road?

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Well, yeah, my physical trainer in Split, he's still over in Split at the moment, so I did my pre-season with Al Murphy from Tennis Australia. He's based up in Brisbane, but he came down and worked with me, Vukic and Rinky. He's been great over December. I feel really fit, strong.

Yeah, at some point I'm going to tee up with my physical trainer, Stjepan. Just not sure what my schedule is going to be at the moment.

Yeah, I'll be teeing up with him really soon.

Q. How do you team up with a physical trainer in Split? Not quite a hotbed for sport, as beautiful as it is. How did you team up with somebody over there?

CHRISTOPHER O'CONNELL: Well, Marinko worked with Stjepan when he was playing. Stjepan also worked with Ivan Dodig. Ivan is just playing doubles at the moment.

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