Monday, May 20, 2024

Austria seal win over gutsy Ireland in Limerick

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Austria were heavily favoured to win this tie and when they took both of the opening day singles it would have taken a truly extraordinary turn of events for Ireland to upset those predictions.

When you consider the lineup for the first match today, that was even more unlikely with the Austrians fielding Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler who have five ATP titles to their name, three within the last year, and Ireland going with veteran David O’Hare who these days works predominantly as a coach and Conor Gannon, a second-year student at the University of Memphis.

It looked like it might be a swift death for Irish hopes. The men in green played nervously, Gannon’s opening service game was broken to love and the Austrians dominated the proceedings to take the set 6-1 with the final point being an O’Hare double fault.

But Ireland, guided by non-playing captain Conor Niland, regrouped, certainly upped their level and gave the close to 2,400 capacity crowd plenty to cheer about. When they held serve after multiple deuces in the fourth game it was as if they had won Wimbledon but in numerous tighter games there were no breaks as it went six-all.

Conor Gannon and David O’Hare celebrate a point but fell just short in the second set tiebreak

Ireland eked out an advantage in the tie-break, 5-4 with two O’Hare serves to come but they couldn’t press it home losing both service points, the second with a big bounce out off the net cord. One point later, the tie was over, 3-0 to Austria.

For the ‘dead rubber’, Miedler returned to the court to face Michael Agwi who had lost three set points in yesterday’s singles against Dominic Thiem. It went one-set all which meant a ten-point tie-break would decide it. Agwi went 8-3 up but Miedler took seven points in a row to leave an anguished Agwi defeated again.

Nonetheless it has been a promising start to 2024 for the 20-year old and his general level of play here should give him confidence to climb the rankings.

The defeat means that Ireland will now campaign in World Group II but, result aside, Tennis Ireland will take a lot of positives from what was an ambitious hosting of the match at the UL Arena and which exceeded the most optimistic expectations.

The strong Austrian team took a 2-0 lead yesterday.

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