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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.


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