Out-of-work tennis ace staying positive

Australian tennis player Chris O'Connell is learning the guitar during his sporting layoff.
Australian tennis player Chris O'Connell is learning the guitar during his sporting layoff.

He's hit the Centrelink queue like millions of other suffering Australians but tennis ace Chris O'Connell can clearly see light at the end of the tunnel.

After chalking up a world-best 84 wins last year and making 14 finals during a phenomenal four-title season, O'Connell rightfully had high hopes for 2020.

Coronavirus has well and truly crushed those hopes, but not the 25-year-old's spirit.

"It is tough, especially after having that big year last year and being ready to go this year," O'Connell told AAP.

"But that's how it is. Everyone's in a bad situation at the moment. I'm staying positive."

Bummed especially at losing his chance to walk through the Wimbledon gates for the first time, O'Connell has moved back home with his parents on Sydney's northern beaches to ride out the storm.

"It is good to be home even though you're stuck at home," he said.

"I'm keeping occupied; I'm running each day, I'm doing gym at home, going up for a surf every now and again, just started learning guitar."

The world No.116 is keeping his eye in by working on his golf game and hitting a few times a week with Davis Cup star Jordan Thompson and fellow Australians Matt Barton and Dave Barclay.

After falling out of the top 1000 and cleaning boats on Pittwater Harbour to make ends meet before last year's stunning renaissance, O'Connell has endured tough times before and believes he's well-placed to do so again.

"I've had plenty of time off over the past few years and I've always come back strong," he said.

"So I'm not too worried. Once I start playing again I'm confident that I'm going to find form quickly.

"I'm only 26 in a couple of months so I've got plenty of time on the tour. My body's feeling good as well so I've got plenty of time to play still."

A gallant four-set loser to world No.16 Andrey Rublev at the Australian Open in January, O'Connell used his career-best Melbourne Park pay day wisely to pay off a tennis loan and travelling debts.

"I've applied for Centrelink so I'm just waiting to hear back from them," he said.

"It's tough. Tennis is a global sport. Many countries play it so for our sport to get up and running, it's going to take longer than other sports.

"It doesn't sound good to say but potentially I might not be playing until next year.

"It is tough to stay motivated but I still enjoy getting out on the tennis court and training, even though I'm not competing.

"I love staying healthy and fit so that's not really changing. It's just a waiting game at the moment."

Australian Associated Press