Australia’s Chris O’Connell has climbed inside the world’s top 100 for the first time as in-form countryman Jason Kubler returns to that company after his Newport semi-final run.

O’Connell opted to skip Wimbledon qualifying this year because the ATP stripped the grand slam of ranking points after Russian and Belarusian players were banned from playing in protest of the invasion of Ukraine.

The 28-year-old Sydneysider’s reasoning was simple: his lifelong tennis ambition was to reach the top 100, so he didn’t want to waste a week, or more if he qualified, of his chase.

Hours before Novak Djokovic toppled Nick Kyrgios for the Wimbledon title a week ago, O’Connell was battling it out with Turkey’s Altug Celikbilek in a Challenger hardcourt final in Portugal.

Marinko Matosevic-coached O’Connell ended up retiring from the final with a hip flexor strain that had bothered him all week.

He was still tipped to make his top-100 debut after that result but instead slotted in at No.101 when the new rankings came out – but a week later he is in at exactly 100.

O’Connell will also earn direct entry into next month’s US Open, where he advanced to round 2 two years ago.

His ranking milestone is a significant triumph for someone who was almost lost to the game as a teenager, when growth spurts contributed to him developing stress fractures in his back.

But, at his father Ian’s urging, O’Connell returned to the sport after close to a two-year absence but there were more injuries and challenges ahead.

O’Connell contracted pneumonia in mid-2017, then had six months off the next year with knee tendinitis before re-emerging with a phenomenal 82 match wins on the lower reaches of the tour in 2019.

That marathon effort of country hopping earned him a wildcard into the 2020 Australian Open but the Covid-19 pandemic soon halted his momentum, then last year ankle and osteitis pubis setbacks cost him a combined four months.

He also contracted the virus in his first tournament back in Italy.

In between, O’Connell was in the Centrelink queue and cleaning boats to pay the bills, a well-worn story he now cringes about anytime someone mentions it.

But a career-best third round showing at this year’s Australian Open, including a titanic upset of Diego Schwartzman, and consistently good results since ensured he joined the tennis world’s elite.

Kubler, a former world junior No.1, has suffered through his own injury and financial struggles but is arguably playing as well as he ever has.

The 29-year-old qualified and made the last 16 at Wimbledon – an effort not represented in the rankings but that provided a healthy boost to his bank account – before his Newport success on the same surface.

Kubler’s won 25 of his past 30 matches across ATP, grand slam, Challenger and qualifying to surge to No.96 in the rankings, only five places off his career high from four years ago.

There are nine Australian men in the top 100, including Alex de Minaur (24), Kyrgios (45), James Duckworth (66), Thanasi Kokkinakis (73), Alexei Popyrin (82), John Millman (84) and Jordan Thompson (95).

Ajla Tomljanovic (68) and Daria Saville (91) are in the top 100 in the women’s rankings.

Read related topics:Nick Kyrgios

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