Successful Irish tennis players are usually as rare as rainfall here at the Australian Open, but Louk Sorensen won his weather-delayed first-round encounter yesterday to become the first of his countrymen in the Open era to win a match at a Grand Slam tournament.
Sorensen, the world No 284, beat Lu Yen-Hsun, of Taiwan, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 to earn a second-round meeting today with John Isner, of the United States. At 6ft 9in Isner is a foot taller than the Irishman, but the world No 28 would have been wise not to expect a mismatch.
Until a fortnight ago 25-year-old Sorensen had never played a match on the main men's tour, let alone at a Grand Slam tournament, but he won three rounds of qualifying before losing to France's Stéphane Robert in Chennai and followed that up with another three victories in the qualifying competition here. Lu, the world No 101, is the highest ranked opponent he has ever beaten.
The last player to fly under an Irish flag in the men's singles at a Grand Slam tournament was Matt Doyle, who is of Irish stock but was born and bred in California. He changed his nationality in 1985, having won for the last time at a major the previous year. He played his last Grand Slam match here in 1986, losing to Jay Lapidus in the first round.
Sorensen's father, Sean, who lost to Rod Laver in the first round at Wimbledon in 1977, is the only other Irishman to have played in a Grand Slam event in the Open era.
Doyle and Sorensen senior took part in perhaps the most memorable event in Irish tennis history when they entertained the United States in the Davis Cup in 1983. A team captained by Arthur Ashe and including John McEnroe and Peter Fleming won the tie in Dublin 4-1.
Should Britain overcome the might of Lithuania in the Davis Cup in March, Ireland could be their next opponents. If Andy Murray is missing again, John Lloyd's team could be up against it. No British men made it into the last round of qualifying here, while Sorensen won all three of his matches and Conor Niland, the Irish No 2 and world No 285, fell at the final hurdle.
Sorensen has Norwegian ancestors, a father who is "100 per cent Irish" and a mother who is "50 per cent German and 50 per cent Austrian". His parents live in Dublin but Sorensen is based in Stuttgart, where he trains with a German coach, Carsten Arriens, and plays league tennis for TC Doggenburg in the Bundesliga, which helps him to pay his way on the Futures and Challenger circuit around Europe. As for his Irish credentials, Sorensen said he liked Guinness, "but not in the summer when it's hot".
How did he explain his recent upturn in form? "I've no idea – I've just kept playing," Sorensen said. "I've been injured so many times in the last few years, but the last couple of months were really good. I stayed healthy and felt great, so maybe it's just everything coming together now."
Asked about his future ambitions, Sorensen said: "My goal is just to stay healthy over the whole year and then check the rankings. That is my first goal. But I believe that by the end of the year I can maybe get to No 200 or No 150 in the rankings and then I'll see. Maybe I can go higher."
Emerald file: Sorensen's career
Born 7 January 1985
Height 5ft 9in (some 6in shorter than Andy Murray)
Turned pro 2003
Career prize money $73,599 (£45k)
World ranking 284 (highest 246)
Honours One ATP Challenger Tour title (Wolfsburg 2008). Has played six ATP tour matches, winning threeReuse content