Sunday 8 December 2019

Niland brings Wimbledon form to help Ireland's bid

TENNIS

Paddy Hickey

CONOR NILAND underlined that he is fully over his Wimbledon exertions by providing Ireland with a perfect start in the Davis Cup relegation play-off against Tunisia at David Lloyd Riverview last night.

Just over two weeks after going tantalisingly close to making the second round at SW19, Niland romped to an emphatic 6-4 6-2 6-1 over Tunisian No 2 Anis Ghorbel.

But the North Africans levelled the five-match tie when their No 1 player Malek Jaziri overcame Irish No 2 Barry King 6-1 6-1 7-5. King failed to take advantage of three break points when leading 4-3 in the third set and Jaziri broke to 15 in the 11th game before serving out to 15 in closing the match.

In the opening contest, Ghorbel stunned the home crowd by slugging it out on equal terms with Niland for most of the first set.

As well as being very comfortable on his serve, Ghorbel (22) consistently generated tremendous pace and depth off both his forehand and backhand.

"He was very aggressive in the first set and he was hitting a lot of big serves," said Niland.

"So for much of the first set, it was a question of soaking up the pressure and waiting for him to make an error. It was my first match since Wimbledon, so it took me a bit of time to get a decent rhythm going."

But the tide turned for Niland in the 10th game of the opening set when he broke Ghorbel on his fifth break point.

The Limerick man made the ideal start in the second set by holding to love and he then broke in the next game for a 2-0 lead before surging 5-2 in front and soon Ghorbel was two sets adrift.

And it was even more emphatic for Niland in the third set as he raced into a 5-0 lead. Niland failed to avail of two match points in the next game, but he made no mistake in the seventh game, closing out with an ace.

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