Tennis: Irish hopes of scoring Davis Cup jackpot hit big setback
Ireland's hopes of having one of the game's biggest names playing in a mouth-watering Davis Cup showdown with Great Britain in Dublin in July are hanging by a thread.
British No 1 Andy Murray has pulled out of his country's Davis Cup clash with Lithuania in Vilnius on March 5-7, in order to focus on his own tournament programme.
So, unless the world No 4 has a rethink between now and the summer, he will be a very notable absentee from the likely tie at Fitzwilliam.
Even without the 22-year-old Scot, Britain will be red-hot favourites to overcome the Lithuanians, and Ireland will also be highly fancied in their corresponding fixture against Turkey at Fitzwilliam on the same date.
In that eventuality, the neighbouring islands would lock horns in Dublin on July 9-11 and they would also face off in the event of both countries suffering shock defeats in the opening round.
The fact that the prospective Ireland v Great Britain tie would take place the weekend after the completion of the Wimbledon Championships considerably lessens the prospect of Murray featuring against Ireland.
Meanwhile, Louk Sorensen and Conor Niland can bring massive encouragement with them for their Australia Open endeavours next week after their five-star performances over the last few days.
Sorensen achieved a career first when qualifying for the main draw of a top-tier ATP Tour event -- the $398,000 Aircel Open in Chennai, India. And 288-ranked Niland only narrowly missed out on emulating the feat of his Davis Cup team-mate in the $1,024,000 Exxon Open in Doha, Qatar, being pipped by Belgium's 122-ranked Steve Darcis in a third-set tie-break, 2-6 6-2 7-6 (7/4).
Sorensen, ranked 293, suffered an emphatic 6-2 6-1 defeat by France's 108-ranked Stephane Robert in the first round of the main draw.
But the bitter disappointment of that reverse will be tempered by the fact that he scored three fine victories in the qualifying round, including a 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (10/8) success over America's former world U-18 No 1 Donald Young.
Niland catches a flight to Melbourne tomorrow and, along with Sorensen, he is due to open his bid for a place in the main draw of the first Grand Slam of the year on Wednesday next.
In squash, Ireland's top two women players, Madeline Perry and Aisling Blake, both open their 2010 tournament campaigns in the United States later this month.
Sligo's world No 27 Blake is first into action, in the $37,450 Greenwich Open in Greenwich, Connecticut, from January 19-24, where she is the second-placed player in the qualifying round. World No 8 Perry makes her debut in the $39,050 Burning River Classic in Ohio, where she is seeded No 3. Blake is also in the qualifying round of this event.