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Tennis: Irish at ease with Oz task

Ireland's Louk Sorensen and Conor Niland comfortably coped with the mantle of favouritism in the first round of the Australian Open qualifying.

Both players recorded previous tournament victories over their opponents and yesterday Sorensen disposed of Monaco's Benjamin Balleret on a 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 scoreline while Niland scored a 6-4, 6-4 win over Finland's Henri Kontinen, on the same Court 14 at Melbourne Park.

Sorensen won the first set on a tie-break despite being 4-2 ahead and having three break points to go 5-2 up.

"I couldn't convert any of them and then he broke back to 5-5. In the tie-break I was 3-6 down, but thankfully I saved three set-points, and won five points on the trot," said Sorensen.

"In the second set, he broke me in the first game, but I managed to break him at 2-2 and 4-2."

The Stuttgart native now faces Michael Yani of the USA in the second round tomorrow.

"It will be tough against Yani. He beat (Ukraine's) Sergei Bubka 13-11 in the third set champions' tie-break today," added Sorensen.

In the second match, Kontinen, who is only 19, broke Niland twice from the two break points he had in the whole match.

But although only having a break-point conversion rate of 57pc, the Limerick man broke the young Finn twice in each set to seal victory, and replicate last year's corresponding success over Australia's Joseph Sirianni.

"I broke him at 3-2 in the first set, but he broke back in next game," said Niland, who next faces United States' 163-ranked Jesse Witten tomorrow.

"I broke him again at 4-4, and served it out (for the set) at 5-4.

"In the second set, I broke him at 1-1 and at 4-2 for a double break. I got broken back at 5-2, he held at 3-5 and I served it out at 5-4."

In contrast to the sweltering 45C temperatures which Melbourne experienced on Monday, it was only a mere 36C yesterday, and Niland coped comfortably.

"The main problem was the fact that it was quite blustery," he pointed out.

"And considering the conditions, I played quite well."

Irish Independent