Limerick’s Conor Niland suffered utter Wimbledon heartbreak today as he went down in five sets to France’s Adrian Mannarino 4-6 6-4 7-6 4-6 6-4.
Court 17 was packed with green jerseys as a huge Irish contingent tried to cheer on Conor to what would have been a huge win, setting up a meeting with six-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in the second round.
It was Niland who took the opening set, cueing joyous verses of the Fieds of Athenry ringing around the venue.
Mannarino upped his game in the second set, eventually breaking to take it 6-4. The third set was an epic battle between the two men, Niland saved three set points from his counterpart to force a tie-breaker. However, the Frenchman finally found a way through Niland’s heroics to edge the tie-break 9-7.
Niland came back fighting in the fourth, breaking Mannarino’s serve and holding his own strongly to make sure the match went to a decider. It now seemed as if the momentum was with the Irishman, and his hoards of fans in the crowd were doing all they could to cheer him on to victory.
The Irishman roared to a 4-1 lead in the final set and looked to be on course for the win. However, world number 55 Mannarino refused to give in and turned the pressure up on Niland, winning five games in a row as he stormed ahead and took the decider.
It was a tough loss for Niland, who was so close to booking his place in the second round on his first appearance at the Grand Slam.
16-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer made a smooth start to his Wimbledon campaign, seeing off Hungary’s Mikhail Kukushkin in straight sets 7-6 6-4 6-2.
Three-time finalist Andy Roddick booked his spot in the second round with a convincing 6-4 7-6 6-3 victory over Andreas Beck. Number eight seed Roddick missed the recent French Open due to a shoulder injury so it will be interesting to see as his Wimbledon progresses if this will affect his massive serve.
Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro strolled to an easy 6-1 6-4 6-3 win in his meeting with Flavio Cipolla.
After their record breaking 11 hour match last year, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut were amazingly draw to face each other again in the first round this year. Isner eventually won the final set 70-68 in 2010, and he will no doubt be delighted that today’s match went a lot more to plan, winning in three sets and 2 hours and 3 minutes.
In the women’s draw, top seed Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki breezed past Arantxa Parra 6-2 6-1, completing her rout in just under an hour.
An emotional Serena Williams survived a stern test from tenacious Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai to begin her Wimbledon defence with a 6-3 3-6 6-1 win. The 29 year-old, whose participation in this year’s tournament was doubtful after an extremely turbulent past 11 months of injury and illness, buried her head in her towel and wept on the completion of her comeback.
“I just wanted to win just one match here seeing as I’m not playing doubles, it was just a really big win for. It’s been so hard and a disaster year for me, but I’ve been praying and I have my family here and I just love tennis,” added Williams who suffered life-threatening blood clots on her lungs in February.