Top seed O'Riain struggles to survive three-set battle

 

TENNIS: Elsa O'Riain, the top seed, had to call upon all of her resources when struggling to survive against Anna Whyte from England 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 at the quarter-final stages of the David Lloyd Irish Open Indoor championships at Riverview yesterday, Pat Roche reports.

A tense three setter was finally resolved after three hours on a second match point for the Cork woman, now a full-time player.

O'Riain admitted afterwards: "Yes I was really worried when serving to stay in the match at 4-5. A confident Whyte won the first point of that crucial ninth game but despite a double fault O'Riain won the game to level 5-5.

O'Riain's performance was far from her best and she put on a brave face afterwards by claiming "I knew I could play well when I needed to".

The number two seed Ann Marie Hogan brought her best shots to the fore to outgun a very competitive Rachel Halligan 6-2 6-1.

Conor Niland, the top seed in the men's singles, can thank David O'Connell for giving his game a close examination. Niland can only benefit from the power play and lengthy rallies in an absorbing struggle. Few points were decided in less than 15 shots in an exhibition of blistering application.

The Davis Cup man just wriggled his way out of trouble to take the first set 7-5 and it was a little easier for him in the second which he snatched in the ninth game.

Nick Malone, the number four seed, produced a performance that could be best described as erratic given that he failed to win a second set game against Stephen Taylor but the Greystones man got through comfortably in the end, 6-4 0-6 6-2. Taylor's brother Conor, another fine competitor never afraid to take the risks, reached the semi-finals with a 6-3 6-3 win over Derek Fluskey.

CRICKET: Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath branded South Africa's tactics as negative after they crashed to defeat in the first two matches of their three-Test series.

"From the start of this series, I've said the South Africans are under more pressure because the series has been built up so much," McGrath said in a column in the Sunday Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne.

Australia, meanwhile, added leg-spinner Stuart MacGill to their squad yesterday for the third Test against South Africa starting at Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

The Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) wicket is traditionally favourable to spin and Australia could opt to promote MacGill to the 11 on his home ground to bowl in tandem with fellow leg-spinner Shane Warne.

RUGBY: Paul Grayson with four second-half penalties steered Northampton to a 24-15 victory to sink second place London Irish.

It was the Midlanders' third successive Premiership win and their fourth on the trot since the arrival in England of new coach Wayne Smith, the former All Blacks boss, who was back home in New Zealand for Christmas.

SWIMMING: The Olympic-size swimming pool at the University of Limerick will be unveiled tomorrow. The 50-metre pool is not just for elite swimmers but will also be open to the public daily at a nominal charge. It is part of the £20 million arena which is Ireland's largest multi-purpose indoor sports facility, with 14,000 sq metres of space. The pool is 25 metres wide with 10 lanes for competitions and with an average depth of over two metres.