Curran's chances fall to injury


Unfortunate defections continued to be the main source of surprise in the Irish Open indoor tennis championships at Riverview yesterday. The Pamela Scott-sponsored event saw Claire Curran the number two seed, hobble off court in the second set of her semi-final clash with third seed Yvonne Doyle, and before a ball was struck in the men's singles quarter-finals exciting teenage contender Stephen Nugent was forced out with a severe bout of 'flu.

Curran, home on holiday from the University of California at Berkeley, fell heavily when stretching for a volley in the first game of the second set and retired a game later to join top seed and 'flu victim Gina Niland in the spectator area. An interesting women's final has been salvaged from the wreckage, with Doyle and Karen Nugent filling the bill from the third and fourth seeded positions. Ann Marie Hogan put up a worthy and defiant battle before succumbing to a rejuvenated Nugent, 6-3 7-6.

Nugent's achievement in getting back to close to her best form after a lengthy illness is one of the most heart-warming aspects of the championship. Her ground shots and overheads are of a quality that would suggest she is not a long way off her target. In the first of the men's quarterfinals Owen Casey, the top seed, took just over an hour to deal with the challenge of the improving Conor Niland. Afterwards Casey reflected on his 6-2 6-3 win: "I must say that Conor is a totally different player and has an unbelievable deep serve." Niland's move to Millfield school in England has obviously helped.

Sean Cooper, too, can be reasonably happy with the quality of his challenge against number two seed Scott Barron. Cooper has a powerful serve and it was surprising when he failed to hold it after breaking for a 4-1 lead in the second set.

Ghana's Davis Cup player Frank Afori saw off the challenge of Joe Green 6-4 7-6. Dubliner Green, now in a third year at Harvard University was outgunned 72 in the second-set tie-break. While it lasted, though, Green kept his more experienced opponent at full stretch. Afori faces Casey in today's semi-final with John Doran taking on Barron.

Men's singles, quarter-finals: O Casey bt C Niland 6-2 6-3; S Barron bt S Cooper 6-2 7-5; J Doran bt S Nugent w/o; F Afori bt J Green 6-4 76 (7-2).

Women's singles, semi-finals: Y Doyle bt C Curran 6-4 2-0, retd; K Nugent bt AM Hogan 6-3 7-6 (7-2).

Czech tennis star Petr Korda has vowed to continue playing for another two years, scotching reports that he could quit following the drugs scandal he has found himself in. The reigning Australian Open champion, who failed a test for the anabolic steroid nandrolone at Wimbledon last year, claimed: "I have been proved innocent by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), and the decision will be announced shortly."