‘DREAMs do come true’ was the mantra being repeated around Limerick Lawn Tennis Club this week, as the fairytale doubles win for Frederik Neilsen in Wimbledon brought back memories of the young Dane’s exploits in the Ennis Road club.
Neilsen, who together with Britain’s Jonny Marray won the Wimbledon title as wild card entrants last Saturday, triumphed in Limerick Lawn in the ITF Futures tournament in 2006, taking both the singles and doubles titles along the way.
That year Neilsen beat Limerick’s Conor Niland - himself a veteran of two grand slams, reaching Wimbledon and the US Open last year - in the quarter finals of the 2006 tournament, before returning in 2007 and 2008 - the year Niland won the ITF Futures crown in his hometown club.
Niland, who has just finished a coaching course in London for ex-professionals that included three-time grand slam winner Mary Pierce, said that Neilsen and Marray were “genuine good guys” of the tennis circuit.
“I know them both really well, they both played Challenger events and Jonny’s mum is from Monaghan. They are literally the soundest lads on the tour, so it was really cool, everyone was pleased to see them win,” said Niland, who is in the process of completing his coaching qualifications since retiring from professional tennis in April due to injury.
“It is an unbelieveable achievement to win the whole tournament, especially in Wimbledon where they have to play the best of five sets,” he continued, of Neilsen and Marray’s success in the All England Club.
“They beat the Bryan brothers - the best doubles players ever - along the way and they really earned it. Incredible, it shows how closely matched it all is all the way down the tour and they really took their opportunity.”
Niland, who takes over as head of tennis in UCD in September, remembered a “close game” against Neilsen in Limerick Lawn in 2006.
“I played against Freddie loads, we saw each other every week, we were around the same ranking and practiced together loads,” he said.
Limerick Lawn had a long tradition of serving as a warm-up venue for Wimbledon bound players throughout the amateur era, while the club, which was founded in 1887, is the oldest in Ireland and Britain. The South of Ireland tournament held annually in the club, which started life as a ladies tournament, also pre-dates Wimbledon.