Monkstown’s Julie Byrne earns place in Irish Federation Cup team
Women will play their first match of the year in Estonia next month
Ireland’s James McGee during his game against Jimmy Wang in a qualifying event for the Australian Open. Photograph: Robert Prezioso/Getty Images
By Johnny Watterson
Ireland’s oldest tennis club, Dublin’s Monkstown LTC, had reason to celebrate over the New Year with significant successes recorded by two promising juniors, Julie Byrne and Conor Gannon. Sixteen-year-old Byrne produced a string of performances in the Federation Cup trials, to earn a place in the Irish team for the most prestigious international team event in women’s tennis, which takes place Estonia next month.
The teenager joins Greystones’ Amy Bowtell, Rachael Dillon and Jane Fennelly for their Euro/Africa Zone Group III competition. Sinead Lohan and Grainne O’Neill were both unavailable for selection on account of academic commitments, while Lynsey McCullough was unavailable to play because of injury.
If she plays in any of the matches Byrne’s selection will make her one of the youngest players to compete for Ireland at international level, which did not surprise her Monkstown coach Stephen O’Shea.
‘Rate of improvement’
“Julie’s rate of improvement in recent months has been remarkable and when she won an ITF junior doubles title in Liverpool before Christmas, we felt she was ready to make her mark in senior competition,” said O’Shea. Byrne will now devote the next eight months to the daily grind of practice and tournament play, mostly around European countries.
At Grand Slam level Ireland’s touring professional James Magee lost 7-6(2), 7-5 to Taipei’s Jimmy Wang in the first round of Qualifying for the Australian Open in Melbourne. Wang made it to the second round of the Wimbledon singles draw last year before bowing out to the 13th ranked German Tommy Haas in straight sets.
The 26-year-old Dubliner lost the first set on a tie break against the consistent, big serving Wang, who won 74 per cent of his first serves. It was a tight match for the 214 ranked Irish player, who was hoping to follow previous Irish Davis Cup colleagues Conor Niland and Louk Sorensen in qualifying for the first Grand Slam event of the year.
Magee lost the first set 7-5 on a tiebreak, going down 7-2 in the mini breaks shoot out and then lost a tight second set to the 28-year-old, also 7-5. Magee’s problematic area was his first serve, which had a decent percentage success when he got them in but managed to land just over half, 53 per cent.