Tuesday, May 21, 2024

IN PICTURES: Ireland’s high class Davis Cup clash with Austria thrills tennis fans at UL

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SOME 4,800 tennis fans were enthralled last weekend as high class international tennis returned to Limerick with the staging of the two-day Davis Cup tie between Ireland and Austria at UL Arena.

Pre-match favourites Austria completed victory in the Davis Cup World Group I Play-off 1st Round match on Sunday when the Ireland doubles team of Conor Gannon, a second-year student at the University of Memphis, who has strong Limerick links, and the experienced David O’Hare lost out to Austria’s duo of Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler who have five ATP titles to their name, including three within the last year.

The Irish duo recovered from a slow start in the opening set to produce a top class display in the second set when the passionate home support roared them on. However, the higher ranked visiting duo ultimately recorded a 6-1 7-6 success.

Austria had also won the two singles matches on Saturday, courtesy of former US Open champion and world number 3 Dominic Thiem’s 7-6 6-3 victory over 20-year-old rising star of Irish tennis Michael Agwi and the subsequent 6-4 6-4 success of world number 40 Sebastian Ofner over Ireland’s Osgar O’Hoisin.

The Ireland Davis Cup team is captained by Limerick man Conor Niland, who enjoyed a hugely successful professional playing career, including competing at both Wimbledon and the US Open. Niland said he had goosebumps before the start of play on both days as the squads were announced to the capacity attendance.

Niland said: “I think it has been a success. Obviously, on the court, we haven’t won, but we were competitive and I think it was always going to be a challenge with the rankings of the Austrian team.

“It was brilliant to have high profile tennis and such a great venue. I thought it looked great, played great in terms of the court quality. The venue, the acoustics when the crowd was cheering was fantastic.

“I got goosebumps both yesterday and today walking out. It was the best atmosphere I have ever experienced in Davis Cup, home or away by quite a distance actually.

“Obviously in terms of the size of the crowd, when we heard the tickets were sold out, we hoped everyone would turn up and they did and I thought they were incredible.

“For me, we have obviously lost the tie, but I think Irish tennis has really gained a great week. I think a lot of kids will get a lot out of it and the players certainly did.

“We’ve had three tie-breaks across the weekend and lost all three. I don’t think it is a co-incidence. I don’t recall Lucas Miedler missing a single ball from 8-5 down (tiebreak v Michael Agwi), he just got so solid and again they are playing at such a high level week in and week out that those kind of pressure situations are par for the course for them.”

Photographer Kieran Ryan-Benson captured all the colour and excitement from the Davis Cup for the Limerick Leader

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