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Sport in brief: louk qualifies for first slam

IRELAND'S Louk Sorensen booked his place the main draw of a grand slam for the first time after progressing through qualifying for the Australian Open today.

The 25-year-old defeated New Zealand's Daniel King-Turner 6-4 7-6 (7/3) in the third and final round.

Sorensen will be one of the lowest ranked players in the main draw, he is the world 287, and could find himself up against British number one Andy Murray who was drawn to play a qualifier in the first round.

Sorsensen becomes the first Irish player since Matt Doyle in 1986 to reach the main draw at a Grand Slam event. His father Seán, the current Irish Davis Cup captain also featured in Grand Slams, playing at Wimbledon and Roland Garros in the 1980s.

Louk now faces Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) in the first round of the Main draw on Monday afternoon. Hsun-Lu is no stranger to Grand Slams, this is his fifth Australian Open reaching the 3rd round of the event in 2009. He has a current ATP ranking of 101

Conor Niland did not join his countryman in the main draw after he failed to capitalise on winning the opening set against Brazil's Ricardo Hocevar to lose 1-6 6-4 6-3.

Meanwhile, defending champion Rafa Nadal has declared himself fighting fit for the rigours of a grand slam but the world's number two is not certain he will be back to his best at the Australian Open next week.

Nadal, whose five-set defeat of Roger Federer in last year's final left the Swiss maestro in tears, has struggled to reach his all-conquering best since knee tendonitis forced him off the tour for two months after the French Open.

"I think I'm playing much better than what I did the last four months," said the six-times grand slam champion.

"I'm ready to try to play my best tennis, I think. I don't know here."

Since returning to the tour at the Montreal Masters in August, Nadal has not won an ATP title and has looked short of his fist-pumping best, although he reached the semi-final of the US Open where he was beaten by winner Juan Martin del Potro.

After crashing out with three successive losses at the ATP Tour Finals in London, Nadal said he needed time out to recharge his batteries and find some confidence.

He helped Spain to a Davis Cup victory over Czech Republic in Barcelona in December and has warmed up for the Australian Open with a win at an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi and reached the final at the Qatar Open where he lost to Nikolay Davydenko.

"The only way to have confidence is winning matches, and winning important matches," Nadal said.

"So I did that in Abu Dhabi, I did that in Doha. So I think now I'm really in the right way."

The Spaniard has drawn 78th-ranked Peter Luczak of Australia in the first round and could face Briton Andy Murray in the quarter-finals.

Nadal, who allowed himself scarcely a day's break after the Davis Cup ended on December 6 before plunging back into training, said there were no question marks over his knees.

He also shrugged off talk of not having outright favourite status, saying that people had been telling him he was favourite at the French Open every year before his 31-match reign was broken by Swede Robin Soderling.


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