Racquets: Niland targets place in world top 100 after bumper year
CONOR NILAND is this week basking in the glory of having achieved a massive improvement of 158 places in the world rankings over the last 12 months.
At the end of the 2009 tournament programme, Niland was ranked No 287 on the ATP singles world ladder.
But 12 months on, thanks largely to landing a brace of ATP Challenger Tour titles, the Limerick native has soared to a career-high mark of No 129.
Niland picked up 100 ranking points for coming up trumps in the Israel Open in early May, and he garnered 80 more by winning last month's Salzburg Open in Austria.
"Obviously it's very encouraging to have made such a big jump in the rankings over the past year," said Niland. "Breaking into the top 100 is the next target for me, and I'll be giving that my all in next year's tournament programme."
After taking just a two-week break following his involvement in Japan's Toyota Challenger in late November, Niland returns to training and practice at the National Tennis Centre in Dublin early next week.
And he will open his tournament programme for 2011 on the top-tier ATP Tour in either the main draw of the Chennai Open in India or qualifying for the Doha Open in Qatar.
Another player who can look back on 2010 with satisfaction is Colin O'Brien, who leapfrogged James McGee to fill third place in the national singles rankings behind Niland and Louk Sorensen, who has dropped from his career-high of 213 to 338 due to a succession of injury-enforced absences from tournaments.
Left-hander O'Brien is now at 605 compared to fellow Dubliner McGee's mark of 618.
And the other Irish players to figure in the year-end singles world rankings chart are Barry King (811), Daniel Glancy (1,083), Sam Barry (1,208), James Cluskey (1,396) and John Morrisey (1,421).
In badminton, world No 39 Scott Evans, from Dublin, faces Canada's 86-ranked David Snider tomorrow in the opening round of the Yonex Irish International at Baldoyle, which gets under way today with the qualifying round.
The No 1 seed in the men's singles is Denmark's world No 35 Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, a friend of Copenhagen-based Evans.
Top Irish woman Chloe Magee, ranked 61, takes on a qualifier in her first match tomorrow. Magee could face the top seed, England's Elizabeth Cann, in the quarter-finals.
In squash, Ireland finished in eighth place in the Women's World Team Championships in New Zealand.