LOUK SORENSEN has given Irish tennis a massive boost by qualifying for the main draw of a top-tier ATP Tour event for the first time.
Sorensen yesterday achieved his ambition of joining the big guns of men's tennis with a 6-2 6-7 (6/8) 6-2 win over young Indian sensation Yuki Bhambri in the $398,000 Aircel Open in Chennai, India.
And Conor Niland yesterday went tantalisingly close to emulating the performance of his Davis Cup team-mate in the $1,024,000 Exxon Open, in Doha, Qatar. After overwhelming Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round of the qualifying series, the 288-ranked Limerick man suffered a heartbreaking 1-6 6-1 7-6 (7/4) defeat by Belgium's Steve Darcis.
Sorensen, ranked No293 in the world, played in the qualifying round of two ATP Tour events last year but failed to advance on both occasions.
Now he is in the 32-strong main draw along with the likes of Sweden's world No8 Robin Soderling and 14th-ranked Maric Cilic of Croatia.
Like Niland, Stuttgart native Sorensen, who today faces France's Stephane Robert, had three matches in the qualifying round.
His second contest featured a notable 7-6 7-6 victory over former world U18 No1 Donald Young of the United States.
Meanwhile, Kim Clijsters' career comeback continued to gather momentum today with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Australia's Alicia Molik at the Brisbane International. Top-seeded Clijsters won the first eight games in the second-round match until Molik, playing her first top-tier tournament since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, held serve.
Clijsters is now into the quarter-finals against either Alexsandra Wozniak or Lucia Safarova.
In the men's first round, James Blake, Marcos Baghdatis, qualifier Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr and Carsten Ball all progressed. Ball will next play top-seed Andy Roddick.