In 12 years on the international circuit Conor Niland had never faced an opponent ranked in the world's top 50. When the 29-year-old Irishman qualified for the US Open and then learned that he had drawn Novak Djokovic in the first round he described the news as "just unbelievable".
Just as unbelievably, however, the biggest day in Niland's professional life ended in despair last night when he was forced to retire when trailing 6-0, 5-1 against the world No 1 in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the main show court here. Niland has been suffering from food poisoning since dining out on Sunday night at what he described as "a fancy restaurant" in Manhattan.
"For the last couple of days I've been cursing my luck," the world No 197 said afterwards. "I can't believe of all the times it happened here. I've had food poisoning twice in my career, so it's pretty rare. It does happen from time to time, but for it to happen two days before this is pretty awful."
He added: "It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of a match and to not be able to go out and show what I can do and be just normal and healthy out there is really frustrating. I felt like I really wanted to start in case a miracle happened and I felt good out there.
"I thought maybe I could bluff my way through, but I just found out you can't do that against the No 1 in the world. I just didn't have it in me today. I was too sick to play. I thought I was going to vomit after long points and just felt really rotten out there."
After 11 failed attempts to qualify for a Grand Slam tournament, Niland finally succeeded this summer at Wimbledon. He promptly qualified again here to become the first Irishman to play in this tournament in the Open era. Louk Sorensen, his fellow countryman, has also qualified and will play his first match today against Robin Soderling.
While the women's world No 1, Caroline Wozniacki, had little trouble beating Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives, the straight-sets defeat of Li Na, the French Open champion, at the hands of Romania's Simona Halep meant that none of the four current female Grand Slam champions reached the second round. Kim Clijsters, last year's winner and the current Australian Open champion, is not defending her title because of injury, while the Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, lost on Monday. Halep had come close to an upset in the second round of Wimbledon when she led Serena Williams by a set and, although she let a break slip away in the second set against Li, she hit back to stun the Chinese player.Reuse content