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Monthly Archives: August 2011

At around 8 o’ clock irish time, when tennis fans over Ireland were settling down to watch the much anticipated match with Limerick man Conor Niland taking on a true beast of the game and current world number one, Novak Djokovic,  our hopes were that Niland would at least win three games. (We are an optimistic bunch).  How and ever, from the outset it was clear that the man from Serbia meant business.  Djokovic, was attacking well but with controlled aggression. Niland looked weak and slightly sickly,  so when the shocking and disappointing news that he was suffering from food poisoning was discovered (through the medium of Twitter), our hopes of any sort of resistance from the Limerick man crumbled like a digestive biscuit.

And our predictions were right.  After six games which were, frankly, quite sad to watch, Djokovic strolled to the chair upon winning the first set. When Niland called for the trainer, our hopes were even more dashed. We really pitied Niland. What was meant to be a great day for Irish tennis instead turned into a nightmare. Niland’s game improved slightly in the second set but still we saw nothing of the blistering cross court forehands and lightning footwork we had seen in the qualifying rounds of  the US Open, and indeed Wimbledon also. And as Djokovic hit a particularly cruel dropshot which the lethargic Niland could not reach,  the rebellious Irishman within me longed to hurl a potato at Djokovic’s forehead.  When Niland won his first game by holding his serve, there were cheers from the crowd,  waiting for the the Irishman to get back on his feet.  It was not to be, however, and trailing 5-1 down in the second set, Conor Niland retired.

And so Djokovic sweeps to victory.  We may feel sorry for Niland, but there was no denying the class of his opponent. In a match that lasted 43 minutes, Djokovic played like the champion he is. With carefully controlled play, Djokovic cleverly wore down Niland, goading him to make mistakes.  Djokovic’s shoulder injury scare – which has stemmed from the Cincinatti masters last week – seemed not to trouble the Serb in the slightest. He was cool, clinical and those 14 winners were quite impressive too!

It was a depressing day for Irish tennis, but at the moment, all sights are set on Djokovic and how he fares in his next match. If he improves on this performance in his next outing,  he stands a phemonenally good chance of lifting that coveted trophy in two weeks time.

 

Work that backhand Conor, You go girl!

I confess when I heard that Conor Niland had qualified for the Wimbledon main draw earlier this year, my first emotion was, frankly, surprise, rather than utmost confidence in Nilands’ tennis skills.  Nevertheless,  I watched his first round match against a young French player,  Adrian Mannarino.  It was a tense encounter without a doubt.  Niland was playing some of his best tennis of his career so far,  He was hitting every ball at such a rip-roaring pace and with unerring accuracy, the fact Niland had never made it to the main draw of a Grand Slam seemed completely implausible. It was when Niland was serving at 4-2 up in the 5th set that had a burglar entered my house and made away with all my worldly possessions, I would scarcely have noticed,  so happily was I enveloped in “Niland Mania”.

Unfortunately it was not to be. Nilands unhappy tendency to sometimes lose his focus during the big points let him down. Mannarino won in 5 sets.  After sulking for a while,  (I take losses like this in my stride) I was fully able to appreciate the enormity of what Niland had achieved.  Nilands’ breakthrough to join the elite club of the main draw in a grand Slam was both admirable and impressive.  Let us not,  at this point, my friends,  get so carried away in the Niland train that we go beyond the station of sense and instead end up at the stop of  “Lower irrational street”.  Louk Sorensen played a central part in raising the profile of Irish tennis, by reaching the 2nd round of the Australian Open earlier this January.

 

You just keep doin' yo' thang Louk!

So when the U.S. Open qualifiers rolled around, imagine our shock and delight  when, not one, but two Irish tennis players, Conor Niland and Louk Sorenson,  fought their way to the main draw of the event at Flushing Meadows.  Irish tennis fans celebrated up and down the country.  The feeling of euphoria and excitement of what was to come was similar to that of the tension felt before the annual “running of the bulls” festival in Pamplona. Though, hopefully with less injuries.

The tennis drawers are no softies, however, and both Niland and Sorenson received very difficult opponents. Niland to play world number 1 and the seemingly invincible Novak Djokovic. Sorenson was drawn against tricky Swede Robin Soderling, who is mainly remembered for the epic match in which he toppled Rafa at the French Open. Both of the Irish lads have proved they are not to be meddled with however, and perhaps they will make this years’ U.S. Open one to remember.