Tuesday 25 April 2017

Racquets: Dillon ready to move on and live American dream in Tennessee

Paddy Hickey

FED CUP ace Rachael Dillon has received a massive boost for the 2010 campaign after securing a move away from Berkeley University after a difficult two-year spell in San Francisco.

Following a string of impressive performances on the ITF women's circuit, Dillon was recruited by the north California institution on a four-year tennis scholarship back in 2007.

But right from the beginning of her stay, the Dublin right-hander had a strained relationship with the coach of the Berkeley women's team, and matters finally came to a head between the two parties during the pre-Christmas term.

It took Dillon some time to organise a replacement university, but eventually she met representatives from Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

And subsequently it was agreed that the Irish player would finish out the remaining two years of her scholarship at the Tennessee college.

"It was a fantastic relief to get away from Berkeley and to get a place in another college," said the 22-year-old Dillon, who recently won the National Indoors title for the second time.

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Dillon added: "I'm delighted with the whole set up at Vanderbilt and the coach and players couldn't be nicer to me. As well, the tennis facilities are first class and the college does very well in the various competitions.

"I was very fortunate to get a place at Vanderbilt and it was through an official of the United States Tennis Association named Lynn Brolly, whom I met at Berkeley, that I was able to make the move.

"She put me in touch with the tennis people in Vanderbilt and everything went very smoothly from there on. I just don't know what I would have done if I hadn't been able to get away from Berkeley," added Dillon, who made her Fed Cup debut for Ireland in Antalya, Turkey in May 2005, when only 17.

Current national men's No 1 Conor Niland spent four years at the San Francisco college under the tutelage of coach Peter Wright, the former Ireland Davis Cup player and team manager.

Furthermore, Eoin Heavey, who has also played Davis Cup for this country, is currently on a scholarship at Berkeley and is working under Wright.

Former Ireland Fed Cup player and Belfast-born Claire Curran, who later lined out for Great Britain, was a tennis scholarship student at Berkeley.

As well as her major cross-country move across the United States, Dillon is taking a lot of encouragement for the current year from her march to title glory in the National Indoors, where she scored a 6-1, 6-4 win over fellow Fed Cup player Amy Bowtell in the final.

"Because of a knee injury which I picked up in October, I hadn't played a competitive match between then and my first match in the Indoors," she said.

"So, I was very pleasantly surprised to play as well as I did and to win five matches. That certainly should stand me in good stead in my collegiate matches with Vanderbilt."

Irish Independent

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