CONOR Niland faces the match of a lifetime against Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic at the US Open this Tuesday.
Niland will play the world’s number one tennis player as a reward for qualifying for his second successive grand slam tennis event, the Limerick man reaching the first round of the US Open after winning three rounds of qualifying at Flushing Meadows in New York.
The Mungret man will face Djokovic - last year’s US Open runner-up - in his first match at the American grand slam at around 7.30pm Irish time this Tuesday evening. The match is third up on the Arthur Ashe stadium, the world’s largest capacity tennis court. It will be shown live on Sky Sports this evening.
Niland, who turns 30 in a matter of weeks, beat Dutchman Matwe Middelkoop 2-6 6-1 6-4 to qualify, where he was joined by fellow Irish tennis star Louk Sorenson - the first time Irish tennis has had two representatives in the main draw of a slam in the Open era.
Niland, ranked at 199 in the world, told the Limerick Leader that he had “an eye out on the draw” for Djokovic before playing Middelkoop.
“I definitely noticed Djokovic was playing a qualifier and it was in my head a little bit, but I still only had a 1 in 16 shot of getting him,” said Conor, speaking from New York.
“My reaction was really happy - he is the best tennis player in the world, in one of the biggest tournaments, on the biggest court, it will be a great atmosphere. I’d rather that than playing a guy ranked 75 on court 17,” laughed Niland.
Djokovic pulled out of the final of the Cincinatti Masters last week with a shoulder injury and the word is that the number one is looking for a Wednesday start to recover. The match will be live on Sky Sports, the Leader understands.
Conor said he planned to keep wearing his lucky green shirts, which he wore in qualifying and with his brother Ross, coach Garry Cahill and friends cheering him on in New York, said he nearly had “as big an entourage as Federer at this stage” adding that he was delighted that people at home would be able to tune in to watch him play this week.
“It is brilliant. I have been really lucky, people were able to watch Wimbledon and hopefully will be able to watch this,” he said.