21 Jul Ireland Bows Out of Davis Cup 2008
Posted at 00:00h in News
The Irish team fell short of making their way through to the 3rd and final stage of this years Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group II at Fitzwilliam LTC. It had been expected that the Ukranian outfit would prove to be a tougher tie for Ireland than Ireland’s previous opponents Morocco, who were defeated 3-2 in a classic encounter in April. The measure of this task would prove to become even greater when the Irish No. 1 Louk Sorensen was ruled out with a stomach muscle injury he picked up while competing in the qualifying rounds for Wimbledon in June. Malahide’s Colin O’Brien was Sean Sorensens choice to replace Irelands top player and would be his first opportunity to compete in a singles rubber at Davis Cup level, having made his debut against Morocco in April.
Friday’s action got off to a flying start for the Irish team with Conor Niland cruising to a straight sets win to give the Irish support a great confidence boost after all the injury worries in the build-up during the week. Niland took full advantage of Artem Smirnov’s inexperience on the artificial grass, dropping only five matches in three sets in a match that lasted less than 90 minutes. 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
The second rubber of the day was always going to be be the tougher tie for the Irish team where Colin O’Brien came up against the highest ranked opponent in the tie – world number 132 – Sergiy Stakhovsky. O’Brien’s performance belied the 700-odd places seperating them on the ATP rankings performing well in the opening two sets. Stakhovsky proved too strong in the third and final set for O’Brien winning by 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. Levelling the tie by the end of Day 1.
Saturday’s third rubber saw newcomer Eoin Heavey team up with James Cluskey against the aforementioned Stakhovsky and doubles specialist Sergiy Bubka, son of former Olympic medallist Sergiy Bubka Snr. Again Ireland were performed well against the more experienced Ukranians but were unable to take upper hand in the match before going down in three sets 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-4.
With the Ukrainians now 2-1 up in the tie it was up to Conor Niland to keep the tie alive for Ireland up until the final rubber. Like O’Brien in the 2nd rubber the Limerick man was expected to find it tough against the Ukrainian star performer Stakhovsky. Niland stormed into the lead with some sensational tennis in the opening two sets, putting Stakhovsky under real pressure to up his game in the third set. The Ukranian steadied the ship in the third set breaking Niland to win 6-4. Once Stakhovsky had found a foothold in the tie he took the opportunity to slowly claw back Nilands lead in the match and in a marathon fourth set eventually levelled the tie winning a tie break 9-7. Despite this set back Niland kept battling on in the fifth making the world 137 fight for every point.Unfortunately for Niland it just wasn’t to be with Stakhovsky broke the Limerick natives serve in the fifth to come through in an engrossing tie after four hours and five minutes of tennis to win the tie for Ukraine.
The duty of completing the weekends matches fell to O’Brien and Smirnov in a dead fifth rubber. O’Brien was impressive in the match and was happy to record his first victory in Davis Cup competition 6-2, 6-2.
The Ukraine will now progress to the 3rd Round to meet Portugal, who had an impressive win over a fancied Cypriot team 5-0, in the Europe/Africa Group II promotion decider. Elsewhere four teams have been promoted from Europe/Africa Group III and will be potential opponents for the Irish in 2009. Bulgaria and Moldova were victorious in their respective pools while Lithuania and Montenegro were also awarded with promotion after finishing as runners-up. Ireland had been in a similar position last year and all four teams will hope to emulate the success of Sean Sorensen’s team in 2009.