Sunday 24 September 2017

Niland vows to deliver game of his life against Djokovic

Tennis

Paddy Hickey

CONOR NILAND says he is hoping to produce the performance of his life in his US Open battle against Novak Djokovic this evening.

Djokovic had asked for the match to be played tomorrow due to the right shoulder injury that forced his retirement in the Cincinnati final against Andy Murray nine days ago but, instead, the Wimbledon champion will begin his tournament this evening.

Niland couldn't have been handed a more difficult opponent than the world No 1 in his first participation in the main draw at Flushing Meadows.

But the Irish No 1 says he is determined to adopt a very positive approach in his joust against this year's winner of the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles, and who has pocketed over $8m in prize money since the beginning of January.

And Niland's upbeat attitude will be replicated today by Louk Sorensen in his contest against the No 6 seed, Sweden's Robin Soderling tomorrow.

"Hopefully, I will produce one of the best -- if not the best -- performances of my career," said Niland. "And that's essential for me to be able to compete on a reasonable basis with Djokovic.

ADVENTUROUS

"There is no point in me going out, playing defensively and just hitting Djokovic on the counter, as that would be counter-productive and would totally play into his hands. Instead, I feel the best approach for me to adopt is to try to be as adventurous and aggressive in my play as possible in the hope that I can put him under a decent amount of pressure for a reasonable amount of time in the match.

"If I sit back and focus largely on soaking up the pressure from Djokovic instead of trying to play my own game, it will be very difficult for me to make an impact in the match. But, of course, if I manage to put him under pressure from time to time, I will have to be very careful as the quality of his returning is simply awesome.

Indeed, he rates his down-the-line backhand as the best shot in his game.

"I'll be going out to play to the very best of my ability, and we'll see where that takes me," added the 29-year-old from Limerick on his battle against the player who has beaten Rafael Nadal on no fewer than five occasions this year.

An encouraging element for Niland is that he displayed tremendous battling qualities and a high level of composure during his third-round qualifying win over the Netherlands' Mattwe Middelkoop, which clinched his place in the main draw. He dropped the first set but prevailed 2-6 6-1 6-4.

US Open, Day 2,

Live, Sky Sports 2 (Red button), 4.0

Irish Independent

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