Injured Sorensen thrilled as stand-in turns up heat on Turkey
LOUK SORENSEN looked on admiringly from the sidelines as his Ireland team-mates coped unexpectedly well with his enforced absence in the Davis Cup clash against Turkey in Dublin last night.
The Australian Open hero was ruled out of the weekend action after failing to recover from a hamstring injury, which also troubled him during his five matches in Melbourne.
Sorensen began to experience searing pain in his right hamstring during a training session on Thursday, and Ireland team boss Sean Sorensen decided to draft in James McGee to fill in for his son.
The 22-year-old Dubliner, playing in only his second Davis Cup singles match, and his first at home, more than justified his selection with a 6-2 6-2 6-4 win over Turkey No 2 Haluk Akkoyun at the Fitzwilliam Club.
Despite McGee's outstanding achievement, the best was yet to come. In the second singles rubber, Conor Niland was conceding 120 places in the world rankings -- 241 to 121 -- against Turkish No 1 Marsel Ilhan.
But the Limerick man produced one of the most notable performances of his career, not only putting Ilhan to the sword, but making mincemeat of him on a 6-3 6-2 6-1 scoreline, to hand Ireland a 2-0 lead in the five-match tie.
"I reckoned Conor had a very good chance of beating Ilhan, as he had a win over him only last September," remarked Louk Sorensen, as he was besieged by a horde of autograph hunters.
"But I never expected him to win in straight sets and so convincingly. And James also deserves immense praise for winning so comfortably."
One break of serve was enough for Niland to wrap up the opening set, the Irish player hammering in an ace on the final point.
In the second set, Niland showed outstanding mental toughness after Ilhan cancelled out an early break to level at 2-2. But Irish player immediately broke the Turk again, and a further break in the seventh game gave him the momentum to go on to take a two sets to love lead.
"Breaking Ilhan back straightaway was crucial, as that obviously sapped a lot of his confidence," said Niland, who consistently frustrated his opponent by returning his penetrating deliveries with interest.
In the third set, Niland kept the Turk on the back foot with further breaks in the first and fifth games to storm into a 5-1 lead. And then, after Ilhan had bravely saved two match-points, Niland closed out the match when he forced a wide backhand by the now demoralised Ilhan.
In the opening singles, McGee's comfort on his serve was the crucial factor.
In the third set alone, the Castleknock unleashed no fewer than seven aces -- and he never faced a break point.
Akkoyun, who has been playing in the Davis Cup since 1998, only once reached deuce on the Irish player's serve.