Tennis: Sorensen on rise after exploits Down Under
LOUK SORENSEN is in line for the biggest cheque of his career despite falling at the second round of the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday.
As well as considerably improving his ranking position by a massive 58 places, Sorensen secured his largest pay-day of €20,342 after his defeat to giant American John Isner.
The 5ft 9ins Stuttgart native was giving away almost a foot in height to Isner, but battled well for long periods before eventually losing out 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 in front of a packed Court 8.
By reaching the second round of the Melbourne Park event, the Ireland Davis Cup ace picked up 45 ranking points, and that should see him improve from his current position of 284 to approximately 226, which would also see him move into third position in the all-time list of Irish players in the world rankings.
Sorensen's precise revised position will not be known until Monday week after the tournament finishes, however he still has a bit of catching up to do on his father Sean, the former Davis Cup ace and current Ireland Davis Cup team boss, who reached 203 in 1980. The Sorensens will only be headed in the Irish all-time list by Matt Doyle, who reached 65 in 1982.
By taking the scalps of four players and becoming the first Irish player to win a match in the main draw of one of the annual four Grand Slam events since Doyle's victory over Australia's Kim Warwick in the November 1984 Australia Open, Sorensen has provided Irish tennis with a massive boost for the coming year.
Conor Niland's performance in reaching the third round of qualifying was another considerable fillip and the two players can look forward with considerable optimism to the remaining Grand Slams of this year, and to Ireland's Davis Cup campaign which opens with a clash against Turkey in Dublin in March.
Despite pulling off shock victories over 150-ranked American Michael Yani and Chinese Taipei's 101-ranked Lu Yen-Hsun, it was probably expecting too much for Sorensen to continue his memorable run against 28-ranked Isner.
But after being considerably outgunned in the opener, the Irish player certainly put up a very creditable performance in the second and third sets, holding his serve until the tie-break in the former which lasted 51 minutes.
And the closely contested nature of the final set is evidenced by the fact that Sorensen kept Isner on court for a marathon 57 minutes. While Isner hammered in 21 aces, Sorensen gave a reasonable account of himself in that department, firing in 11 such winners.
But the crucial factor was that the American converted two of his five break points while his opponent failed to avail of any of his three which could have provided him with an avenue back into the match.
The American will play Gael Monfils in the next round while another Frenchman will bid to end the hopes of Andy Murray, despite being relatively unknown in his own country.
Florent Serra ranks at 64 in the world but that not inconsiderable achievement pitches him in as the French No 10, one of the B-list behind the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Monfils, Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet.
About the only chance that Serra has of achieving tennis fame these days would be if he manages to defeat Murray when they meet tomorrow in the third round.
"I'm very discrete, but that depends on me," Serra said. "Maybe if I beat Murray I would be on the front page." It will be Murray's first encounter with Serra, a 28-year-old from Bordeaux, and the Scot's second match in succession at Melbourne Park against a Frenchman.
There were three challenges for Murray on the Margaret Court Arena yesterday; the swirling wind in the bowl-like stadium, keeping his concentration in front of a 'pub crowd' who appeared to have spent most of the day overdoing it on the local lager, and also the tennis being played by Marc Gicquel, the world No 57.
Murray dealt with all of them for a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 victory. Since he had only dropped four games in his opening match against South Africa's Kevin Anderson, he has conceded just 12 games so far at this tournament.
Life has been very different at Melbourne Park for Serra.
The Frenchman has already played a lot of tennis, as he needed five sets to defeat Austria's Jurgen Melzer and then another five sets to beat Jarkko Nieminen, having staved off the Finn's two match points.
For only the second time in his career Serra is through to the last 32 of a Grand Slam. He is also extremely tired. So is Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who needed more than four and a quarter hours to beat America's James Blake 6-4, 6-7, 5-7, 6-3, 10-8.
There was no such difficulty for reigning champion Rafael Nadal, who secured a routine 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over Lukas Lacko to progress to the third round.
Only two seeds fell yesterday, with Tomas Berdych (seeded 21) bundled out by Kazakhstan's Evgeny Korolev 6-4, 6-4, 7-5.
Serbian Viktor Troicki (seeded 29) was also eliminated 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 6-1 by Florian Mayer, who was rewarded with a third-round match against Del Potro.
In the last match of the day, 14th seed Marin Cilic was taken the distance by Australian teenager Bernard Tomic 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 with play not finishing until after 2.0am local time. (© Daily Telegraph, London)