Chris O’Connell has netted his second Grand Slam win to enhance the Aussie presence in the second round at Melbourne Park

It takes a while to make $150,000 cleaning boats.

But Aussie Chris O’Connell is on track to net at least that much, and maybe more, after a massive first round Australian Open win and the 26-year-old from Sydney’s Northern Beaches declared he hasn’t started playing his best tennis yet.

O’Connell, who spent time washing boats in 2018 with his brother when injuries were getting him down, took a huge scalp in defeating world number 37 Jan Lennard-Struff in an emphatic, 7-6, 7-6, 6-1 win on Tuesday.

It was his just his second Grand Slam victory, having got through to the second round at the US Open last year, a win which added to slowly building confidence at the top level.

His tennis took a hit when he was caught in the COVID-19 cluster that his his local area over Christmas.

O’Connell used a neighbour’s tennis court to practice.

He conceded it was a “little bit stressful”, but not enough to stop him feeling “awesome” in his Melbourne Park victory.

“Yeah, I was impacted a little bit. But I managed to get in a little bit of training,” O’Connell said on Tuesday.

“Got some family friends just up the road from us. I was able to get on their hard court, with my little brother and them. It was good.

“I just focused on getting my fitness levels up, knowing that, yeah, I was just hoping that I‘d get my fitness levels up and be ready to go once I played a Grand Slam match.

“But I mean, that‘s why we play tennis, to play Grand Slams, to get to win first rounds of Grand Slams. It’s just awesome, yeah. Unbelievable feeling”

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Aussie wildcard @chrisoconnelll advances to the second round of the #AusOpen for the first time after scoring a 7-6(2) 7-6(5) 6-1 win over Struff.#AO2021pic.twitter.com/olwV2lVm08

O’Connell fell outside the top 1000 in the world rankings, but is now on the verge of breaking in to the top 100 at 121.

And with a maiden Australian Open win under his belt, O’Connell is eyeing off more improvement, adamant his best tennis remains ahead of him.

“Yeah, definitely. Still don’t think my best tennis has arrived yet,” he said.

“It’s just taken me a longer time to figure out how to get these wins, feel confident out there, feel comfortable. Yeah, I’ve still got some learning to do.

“The more I play these type of events, the better I feel out there, the more confident and calm I feel out there.

“I’m going to take what I experienced in that match and bring it to my second round match.”

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