Niland takes a swing at the literary

Limerick tennis ace Conor Niland. Photo: Brendan Moran.

WITH the Wimbledon Tennis Championships underway, it’s timely to give praise-worthy mention to a superb new book by Limerick’s Conor Niland, which offers a fascinating insight into the sport.

The Racket’ tells the story of pro tennis’ 99 per cent: the players who roam the globe in hope of climbing the rankings and squeaking into the Grand Slam tournaments.

It brings readers into a world where a few dozen super-rich players – travelling with coaches and physios – share a stage with lonely touring pros whose earnings barely cover their expenses.

Painting a vivid picture of the social dynamics on tour, the economics of the game, and the shadows cast by gambling and doping, it is a witty and revealing underdog’s memoir and a unique look inside a fascinating hidden world.

Niland grew up in Patrickswell and attended St Nessan’s National School, Mungret, and Crescent College Comprehensive before embarking on life as a professional in his chosen sport in 2005.

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He retired in 2012 due to a persistent hip injury.

During his career, Niland participated in all four Grand Slams, including Wimbledon 2011.

Back then in London, he was unfortunate to lose a five-set opening-round tie to Adrian Mannarino (France). Had Niland won, he would have faced subsequent eight-time Championship winner Roger Federer of Switzerland in the second round.

He is the last Irishman to have competed at Wimbledon.

His late father, Ray, was a noted footballer with Mayo, for whom he featured in the county’s 1970 National Football League Final win over Down. He also played intercounty (hurling and football) with both Galway and Westmeath.

Mum Pat (Ryan) was also an accomplished all-round sportsperson, more recently in golf and for many years was closely attached to future Ryder Cup venue Adare GC.

Conor’s sister Gina is a former Irish number one tennis player.

He has two other brothers, Ross and Ray (junior), and now lives with his wife Síne and two children in Dublin.