LIMERICK tennis player Conor Niland is just one win away from qualifying for the main draw of the Australian Open Men's Singles after beating highly fancied American Jesse Witten in three sets.
Witten, who was seeded 28 in the qualifiers, made it to the third round of last year's US Open and has a current career high ranking of 163 in the world. However, Niland - who is not seeded in the event and has a current ranking of 288 in the world - battled hard to see off the challenge of the right-handed Florida player in three sets, leaving him with a final match against Brazilian Ricardo Hocevar, which will take place tomorrow in Melbourne.
The 28-year old Mungret man produced a superb display to win 2-6 6-1 6-4, and, speaking to the Limerick Leader from his Melbourne base, Niland said raising his aggression in the second and third sets made the difference against Witten.
"I played a very good second and third set today," said Niland, "I probably wasn't aggressive enough in the first set."
On Tuesday night Niland confidently overcame Finland's Henri Kontinen 6-4 6-4 to set up the clash with Jesse Witten, and take one step closer to the 128-man main draw of the first tennis grand slam of the year.
Looking ahead, the Limerick tennis star was confident of his chances in his final game, which will take place in the early hours of Saturday morning, Irish time.
"I'm looking forward to tomorrow," said Niland. "I've seen Hovecar play a bit, he is good, but I'll have my chances," added the Limerick man.
Niland brought good form to the Melbourne qualifiers, having gone close to qualifying for the $1,024,000 Exxon Open in Doha, Qatar last week.
His fellow Irishman Louk Sorenson also won his second qualifying match for the Australian Open, defeating 26th seed Michael Yani from the United States 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Sorenson will now play New Zealand's Daniel King-Turner.
Limerick teenager Sam Barry is also in Melbourne and will attempt to qualify for the under-18 event next week.