Student Niland ready for Davis Cup test
Conor Niland put the books away this week to sit another test: gaining Ireland's promotion to Group II of the Davis Cup.
The 35-year-old, studying for a Master's in Real Estate at DIT since retiring, returns to the court as non-playing captain for the tournament.
The schedules of Irish No 1 James McGee, David O'Hare, Sam Barry and Peter Bothwell allowed the Limerick man pick his best possible side.
"It's our strongest team in recent years. Having a player like James McGee, near 200 in the world, is always a plus going into Davis Cup," he said.
If Ireland make it beyond the pool stages, they could face hosts Bulgaria on Saturday, who are without world No 12 Grigor Dimitrov, much to Niland's relief.
"We have to be well prepared and we then may be within a chance. You want the easiest draw and progress as far as you can. But if you're playing against those top guys, you're probably doing something right," he said.
Niland knows what to expect against the top players having faced Novak Djokovic in the 2011 US Open first round.
"It was a great to get all these new experiences then. Playing on Arthur Ashe, to be interviewed by a guy from ESPN," he recalled. "This was all new to me and I was almost 29. I would have had to get used that in my early 20s for that not to have been such novelty and to have any real chance."
He retired after trailing 0-6, 1-5 but a bout of food poisoning days before didn't help either. A hip injury forced him to call time on his career soon after this high point in 2012.
"The decision was made easier by the fact that I wasn't a leaving a big pay cheque behind me," he reflected.
"It was nice to leave tennis behind in some ways. You spend your life on the road and dedicated to the cause. It's nice just to be able to have some time to yourself."
Today he revisits his tennis career as Ireland get their pool campaign under way against Andorra before they face Kosovo tomorrow and Montenegro on Friday.
Winners from Group III's four pools then play-off against each other for the two places in next year's Europe/Africa's Group II.