Davis Cup door opens for Conor Niland

The resignation of Gary Cahill leaves an opportunity for Niland to take charge

Conor Niland made both the main singles draw at the US Open and Wimbledon in 2011. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

Conor Niland made both the main singles draw at the US Open and Wimbledon in 2011. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

 
Davis CupConor Niland

Tennis Ireland have stated that they will be conducting interviews over the next few weeks with a view to appointing Cahill’s successor within a fortnight. Ireland faces into their first Davis Cup match of 2015 against Belarus in March.

Niland, for many reasons, is the perfect choice for the role and not only because he has been assistant coach for a number of years. His profile as a professional is the highest of any player since the Sean Sorensen and Matt Doyle days of the 1980s and his experience is unmatched.

Niland grew up in Limerick – a neighbour of Irish scrumhalf Eoin Reddan – and went to Crescent College in Dooradoyle. He played for the Irish Davis Cup team from 2000 to 2012 and along the way qualified for both Wimbledon and the US Open main singles draws.

While he played most of his matches in the Futures and Challenger circuit, Niland rose to a career high of 129 in the world in 2010.

The following year he defeated Josselin Ouanna, Greg Jones and Nikola Mektic to qualify for his first ever Grand Slam event at the All England Club. In doing so, he also became the first Irishman to reach the main draw at Wimbledon since Sorensen did in 1977 and 1980. He faced Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the first round of Wimbledon on an outside court, where he lost in five sets, having led 4-1 with a double-break in the fifth set. Had he won, Niland would have played against Roger Federer on Centre Court in the second round.

He went on to make it through the qualification tournament for that year’s US Open and was drawn against world number one Novak Djokovic. But due to a bout of food poisoning, he was forced to retire from the match trailing 0-6, 1-5.

His sister Gina is also a former Irish number-one ranked player.

The 33-year-old officially announced his retirement from tennis in April 2012 because of a recurring hip injury.

Step down

“I am very proud of my time as Irish Davis Cup captain. I would like to thank the players and the board of Tennis Ireland for their support during the four-year period I was in charge,” said Cahill.

Ireland’s game against Belarus in March is in the Euro-Africa Group ll tier of the competition, which is several tiers below the World Group level, which Switzerland won this year for the first time.

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