Racquets: Niland in top form ahead of US Open qualifying bid
CONOR NILAND heads into next week's US Open qualifying boosted by three quarter-final placings on the trot. Niland reached the last eight of two Challenger events in Penza and Saransk (both in Russia) in July, and in Beijing earlier this month.
Niland has been training at the National Tennis Centre in Dublin for the final Grand Slam of the year, and flies out to New York tomorrow.
The Limerick man is likely to face his first match on Wednesday, giving him time to adjust to the city's notorious summer heat and humidity.
"I put a few decent results together in two tournaments in Russia and the one in China so hopefully I will build on that in the US Open qualifying," said 156-ranked Niland, who will have to win three matches to nail down a place in the 128-strong main draw.
The Irish No 1 is still striving to make the breakthrough to the main draw of a Grand Slam event and his prospects of emulating the feat of Davis Cup team-mate Louk Sorensen -- who qualified for this year's Australian Open and won a match -- will hinge to a large degree on the luck of the draw.
So far, the closest that Niland has come to making the last 128 was in this year's Australian Open, where he reached the third round of qualifying only to be denied by Brazil's Ricardo Hocevar in three sets.
Unlike this year's Australian Open and French Open, Ireland will be represented solely by Niland at the Flushing Meadows event, with Sorensen's ranking of 279 not enough to make the cut-off point for qualifying.
Sorensen also missed out on this year's Wimbledon qualifying after being sidelined with a pelvic injury. The Stuttgart-based player has been out through injury for five months this year -- a torn hamstring proving his most serious problem -- which has caused his rankings to dip from a career-high mark of 213 after the Australian Open to 295 early this month.
Meanwhile, Madeline Perry has provided Irish squash with a major lift by capturing the Australian Open title, defeating England's Alison Waters in the final in Canberra. In a marathon 75-minute contest, the 33-year-old from Banbridge prevailed 11-5 12-10 6-11 4-11 13-11. The win marked World No 8 Perry's seventh Women's International Squash Players Association (WISPA) Tour title and her first on foreign soil for over five years.
Perry -- who shocked England's World No 2 Jenny Duncalf in the semi-finals -- and Waters will join WISPA's other leading players at the Hong Kong Open from August 25 to 29.