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Old Jul 5th, 2013, 06:41 PM   #1258
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Re: irish tennis

RETIRED Irish tennis star Conor Niland says a lack of investment here in the sport means it's unlikely we'll see the Irish feature in Wimbledon.

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The 32-year-old feels that Ireland sees tennis as a "summer sport" and needs to pump investment at youth level.

In 2011, Niland became the first Irishman in more than a quarter of a century to qualify for the main draw at Wimbledon. After calling time on his playing career in April 2012, Conor was back at the All England club earlier this week watching the action.

"A great goal for Ireland is to have one man and woman in the main draw, that should be our aim over the next few years," Conor told the Herald.

"We're never realistically going to have a chance of winning Wimbledon, but you get a kick out of watching people from your own country play."

And Conor says having huge support behind him when he reached the knock-out stages of Wimbledon was one of the defining moments of his career.

"It was great for me, people came over at short notice."

Conor reached a career high ranking of 129 in the world in 2010, the best ranking ever achieved by a player who was raised in Ireland. He was born in England, but grew up in Limerick and perfected his tennis skills at the University of Berkley in California.

Conor, who won three events on the ATP Challenger Tour, says the main problem is that tennis is not nurtured like other sports in Ireland. "We need to get the facilities for kids who are eight, nine, ten years of age.

Conor now works as a tennis coach and is helping to promote the National Tennis Day tomorrow.

"What we need is a player to break into the top 100 elite players in the world and if we do this then the interest will follow," he added.

hnews@herald.ie
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