Isner halts Sorensen's dream run Down Under

Louk Sorensen returns to American John Isner.

Louk Sorensen returns to American John Isner.

 

TENNIS:DROP A small stone and watch the ripples. This week was a watershed for Irish tennis and the Sorensen household, one in which the news of Roger Federer’s flirtation with a first round exit from the Australian Open was supplanted by the success of Ireland’s Davis Cup player, Louk Sorensen.

Sorensen was the stone dropped into the first Grand Slam of the year that finally stopped rippling in the early hours of yesterday morning after five matches, three of them in the qualifiers and two in the main draw.

On a strictly personal note he also bettered his father Seán, the Irish Davis Cup captain, by one Grand Slam round. Senior Sorensen’s major appearance was 33 years ago at Wimbledon when he lost to the legendary Australian, Rod Laver.

A stomach injury that hampered the 25-year-old last summer in the Wimbledon qualification tournament at Roehampton forced him out of that and insured he would maintain a low profile in Ireland and abroad. But along with Davis Cup colleague, Conor Niland, who lost in the third and final match of qualification in Melbourne, the two have never been ones to set their sights low. The rule of thumb on the professional tour is that anyone 150 ranking points above is beatable and anyone 150 points below can beat you on any given day.

Sorensen’s first main-draw opponent Yen-Hsun Lu was ranked at 101 in the world to Sorensen’s 284, while the player who beat him in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-5 in the second round, the 6ft 9in John Isner, is ranked at 28. The American took two hours and 16 minutes to win the match off a big serve.

Critically for Sorensen, he was unable to convert any of the three service break points he earned with Isner winning three from five.

The estimated improvement on Sorensen’s ranking should take him up to a career high of around 208 in the world, although the official ATP rankings are not published until the Monday morning of every week. While that will not gain him automatic entry into future Grand Slam events, it should earn him automatic entry into the €35,000 Challenger main draws.

The four Grand Slam events have 128 players in the main draw but with wild card entries and qualifying slots filling some of those a hopeful player would need to be at around the 100 ranking mark to gain automatic qualification. At this week’s Australian Open there were eight wild card entries and 16 qualifiers who filled main draw slots. Taking into account injuries and players, like Bjorn Borg in his heyday, who don’t like travelling to Australia, it brings in the top 104 healthy and willing players into automatic main draw contention.

Sorensen has also earned $31,500 (€22,314) for the week’s work compared to his entire career earnings of $73,559 (€52,058) prior to Melbourne. The biggest single pay cheque he had earned before this week was a €4,260 semi-final payout at an Italian Challenger event last July.

“My goal is to just stay healthy over the whole year and then check the rankings,” said Stuttgart-based Sorensen. “But I believe by the end of the year, I can go maybe 150 and then I’ll see maybe I can go higher. I’ve been injured so many times over the last years and now the last couple of months were really good, I stayed healthy and felt great. So maybe it’s just everything coming together now.”

This summer will again bring tennis into focus domestically with hopes that Sorensen, Niland and Ireland can beat Turkey and Britain defeat Lithuania in their first round matches in Europe-Africa zone group two. That would set up a Dublin Davis Cup meeting against Britain in the second round and the attractive possibility that world number four, Andy Murray, will be in town.