Tennis: Cool hand Louk steals show in Oz
ON a day of surprises at the Australian Open, Irish qualifier Louk Sorensen caused the biggest shock.
It was a day when a local newspaper published pictures on its front page of a group of ticket-holders doing Nazi salutes outside Melbourne Park, when Roger Federer only just avoided going two sets to one down against Russia's Igor Andreev in the first round, and when Nikolay Davydenko was moved to say “I'm not Paris Hilton”.
All that was eclipsed by Sorensen, ranked No 284 in the world, reaching the second round and becoming the first Irishman since California-born Matt Doyle in 1985 to win a match in the main draw of a Grand Slam event.
Sorensen is becoming the biggest story in Irish tennis since 1879 Wimbledon finalist Vere Thomas St Leger Goold was convicted of murder in Monte Carlo in 1907 after he was caught with the sliced-up remains of a woman's body in his trunk.
Thankfully, Sorensen's tale just involves a decent run through qualifying and his 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 first-round victory over Taipei's Yen-Hsun Lu, ranked 183 places above him.
Though Sorensen spent most of his childhood in Germany – his mother Helga is German – and is based in Stuttgart, and makes a significant part of his money playing in the third division of the German inter-club league, there is no doubt that he is Irish. His father Sean is Ireland’s Davis Cup captain and is “100pc Irish”.
“I don't know what's going on right now,” said Sorensen, who was due to play American giant John Isner, ranked No 28 in the world, in the early hours of this morning.
“I've suddenly got so many friend requests on Facebook.” Sorensen broke his opponent in the first game, and then took the opening set on his third set-point.
After Lu had battled back to level at one set all, Sorensen upped his game considerably to drop just three games in the remaining two sets, needing only 29 minutes on court in the fourth.
“I played very well and was very solid for most of the match,” said Sorensen. “There were some Irish supporters out there, and that was very nice and helped me a lot.”
His success in battling through three rounds of qualifying meant that Ireland had as many players in the main draw of the men’s draw as Britain – although Andy Murray is expected to progress further than Sorensen.
In the afternoon, it became clear that Andreev was keen to do what his girlfriend Maria Kirilenko had achieved against Maria Sharapova on Monday, by “starting the year loud”.
Andreev took the first set off Federer. And when the Russian served at 6- 5 in the third set, he had three points to lead by two sets to one. But on each set point, Andreev made a mistake with his forehand. “Something went wrong,” he said, understatedly.
When Andreev missed that third forehand, the umpire should have just announced: “Game, set and match, Federer”.
The Swiss top seed duly broke serve, won the tie-break and then ripped through the fourth set for a 4-6, 6-2, 7- 6, 6-0 victory. For Federer, first-round matches are supposed to be glorified practice sessions. This one was not. As the world No 1 put it, he just had to “hang in there” in the third set. Soon after coming off court, Andreev was spotted crying in a corridor.
Davydenko and Paris Hilton are about the last two people you would expect to appear together in the same sentence. The point that the world No 6 was making was that he does not want to be a tennis celebrity like Federer or Rafael Nadal.
Even so, it was funny to hear Davydenko say it: no denial was necessary. The Russian pulverised Germany's Dieter Kindlmann 6-1, 6-0, 6-3.
Richard Gasquet, playing in his first grand slam match since being cleared of doping charges, lost to Russian 20th seed Mikhail Youzhny after being two sets up. (© Daily Telegraph, London)