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Are we all strapped in and ready for a little bit of history?

In a few short minutes, Limerick man Conor Niland will step out onto Wimbledon’s Court 17 for his Men’s Singles first round match against Adrian Mannarino of France. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of days, this is the first time that an Irishman has made it to the main event at the All-England Tennis Club since Sean Sorensen was beaten by Rod Laver in 1977.

Which is to say, this is a pretty big deal.

We’ll have game-by-game coverage of the match this afternoon, so stay right here and you won’t miss a thing.

So, who is this Adrian Mannarino chap anyway? Is he any good?

Here’s a quick introduction which I penned earlier:

Adrian Mannarino is a 22-year-old from France, currently ranked 55th in the world. Like Niland, he plays most of his tennis on the ATP Challenger circuit where he has won twice and come runner-up on five occasions. He has picked up plenty of Grand Slam experience over the past few years, though he is a no stranger to an early exit. His only previous appearance at Wimbledon was in 2009, when as a qualifier, he was beaten in straight sets by fellow Frenchman Marc Gicquel in the first round.

Read more of the bluffer’s  guide to Conor’s Wimbledon debut here >

Conor is out on Court 17  getting warmed up as I type. All week, he’s been talking about how, of all the tennis Grand Slams, Wimbledon is the one everybody wants to play at. Let’s hope that, amidst all of the buzz and hype, he has a little bit of chance to savour the moment.

We’re off and underway on Court 17. Niland to serve first. C’mon Conor!

Niland 1-0* Mannarinio (* denotes next server) Niland holds to love. The perfect start.

Niland 1*-1 Mannarino I don’t know a huge amount about Mannarino, but boy can he serve. He holds to love, taking the game after Conor’s attempted lob just drifts slightly long.

Niland 2-1* Mannarino The early ground strokes from both players seem very positive, and Conor is patiently waiting for Mannarino to make mistakes. He gives his opponent the run-around, dragging him all over the court to go 40-0 up. Mannarino forces Conor’s second serve on game point wide and that’s the game.

Niland *2-2 Mannarino That’ll go down as a chance missed, but regardless, this is some cracking tennis from Conor. A wonderful passing shot on the move scurries down the right line to send him 0-30 up and before we know it, he’s sitting on three break points. A backhand from the service line ends up in the net for the first of them, and a pretty wild forehand scratches off the second. Mannarino saves the third with a big serve and then serves out the remainder.

Niland 3-2* Mannarino That’s another solid service game from Conor. The two points which Mannarino won there are the first two which he’s managed on Conor’s serve so far today. The Limerick man is looking more than comfortable out there.

Niland *3-3 Mannarino That was our longest game yet. 15-0 up, Mannarino comes chases his cut into the net and Conor slams a backhand past him down the line to make it 15-15. The Frenchman has a chance to take advantage at 30-30 but, at the end of a quality rally, drags his shot wide to bring up Conor’s fourth break-point. That’s saved, largely thanks to a big serve, and some pretty tennis from Mannarino brings up an advantage to him. Conor’s hitting his ground strokes pretty accurately in this opening set and he stops Mannarino from serving out the game on five successive occasions. At the sixth time of asking, the Frenchman obliges.

Niland 4-3* Mannarino Conor holds serve 40-15. He really is playing some great stuff.

Niland *4-4 Mannarino The first point of the game produces a cracking rally in which Niland prevails with another fearsome forehand. He tries a tricky little drop-shot to catch Mannarino off guard, but the Frenchman is alive to it and ties it up at 15-15. Niland looks like he can tussle with the best of them once he gets going on the baseline, drilling another forehand into the corner to make it 30-30. It’s a game effort, but the Frenchman hangs on to serve out.

Niland 5-4* Mannarino That really is quite brilliant. 15-0 up, Niland slips mid-rally but somehow manages to scramble to his feet and save the point. An unforced error from Mannarino, slamming a forehand into the net from close range, hands Niland a 5-4 advantage. Still on serve here in the first.

Niland 6-4 Mannarino Another unforced error from Mannarino at 15-30 and all of a sudden, Conor has two set points in his pocket. A delicate little slice on the first ends up in the net and, with the second, he tries to send a running forehand down the line but just can’t get the direction on it. A peach of a shot brings up set point number three and, when Mannarino’s shot clips the top of the net, the Irish supporters in the ground squeal, only to see the ball drop on Conor’s side. Mannarino is making quite a few errors now, handing Conor his fourth set point. The Frenchman drags this one wide on the right, and that’s first blood Niland. Get in!

Niland 6-4 1-0* Mannarino Niland holds to love in his first service game of the second. Quickly, some stats from the first set. Conor won 79% of points on his first serve versus 56% for Mannarino, and won 90% on his second serve while Mannarino only managed 63%. 16 unforced errors for the Frenchman; only 4 for Conor so far. The numbers don’t lie, that’s a great start.

Niland 6-4 *1-1 Mannarino Anything you can do, I can do better – Mannarino holds his first service game to love.

Niland 6-4 2-1* Mannarino Mannarino makes Conor work to hold this next service game and, at 30-30, tries to stick a lob over the head of an advancing Niland. It’s long and, when the Frenchman puts his next shot into the net under little pressure, that’s another important hold.

Niland 6-4 *2-2 Mannarino Controversy on Court 17, a realm in which Hawk-eye holds no sway. Conor suggests that Mannarino’s forehand is wide, but there’s no call from the line judges. Replays show that they were probably right. Mannarino holds.

Niland 6-4 3-2* Mannarino Another belter of a game and that is a huge, huge save for Niland. The first real signs of a wobble as he concedes two break points, but he gets out of jail at 30-40, slamming another of those powerful forehands right onto the line. “Deadly,” says my man on TG4 – or is that “deadlaí?” He beats Mannarino in an exchange at the net to bring up an advantage but cannot convert and quickly finds himself facing another break. He gets off the hook when Mannarino hits a fairly straightforward forehand into the net, but again passes up an opportunity to serve out the game. Mannarino whips another drop shot out of his arsenal when nobody expects it, bringing up another break point which he again fails to take advantage of. He throws his hands into the air as if to say “what do I have to do to win this game?” It seems the answer is nothing, with Niland (finally) closing it out two points later.

Niland 6-4 *3-3 Mannarino That’s a hold for the Frenchman, 40-15. Nothing much else to report from that game.

Niland 6-4 4-3* Mannarino Bam, bam, bam, bam. A huge service game for Conor proves to be the perfect antidote to these mid-set wobbles. He holds to love and that’ll do the world of good for his confidence.

Niland 6-4 *4-4 Mannarino There’s not a huge amount between the two in this second set. Conor appears to be finding it slightly harder to put Mannarino’s serve under pressure as the Frenchman starts to find his feet. He holds to 15 and we’re still on serve.

Niland 6-4 4-5* Mannarino Mannarino’s getting a little bit frustrated and, to be fair, I can’t blame him. At 15-30, his forehand can only find the net again and then, with a break point in his pocket, he can’t quite get enough racket on Niland’s return of service. His service in recent games has been hugely impressive until two successive double-faults hand Mannarino another break. He takes this one and the Frenchman will now serve for the set.

Niland 6-4 4-6 Mannarino Some clever, well-executed shots give the second set to Mannarino, proving that the Frenchman is ready, willing and able to pounce on even the slightest mistakes from Conor. Time to regroup and go again.

Niland 6-4 4-6 0-1* Mannarino Oof, that’s an early blow. On serve in the first game, Niland saves two break points, the second of which is squandered when Manarrino’s lob has the height but not the direction. Another service-double fault gives Mannarino a third chance to break in this opening game and he really doesn’t need to be asked again. Advantage to the Frenchman early in the third.

The second set stats indicate just how much of a shift of momentum we’ve seen. Conor’s now only winning 60% of points on his first serve and 59% on his second (versus 89% and 60% for Mannarino). The Limerick man made thirteen unforced errors and not even five saved break-points were enough to keep him in the set.

Niland 6-4 4-6 *1-1 Mannarino That’s how you respond. A cracking cross-court forehand wins the game and Conor breaks back immediately. Let’s hope that he can build on that now as he has been clearly second-best for the last little while.

Niland 6-4 4-6 1-2* Mannarino And no sooner than we seem to be getting back on track, then Mannarino breaks again. That’s Conor’s last three service games which have been broken – we’re yet to see a hold of service in this third set. Let’s hope that trend continues for one more game.

Niland 6-4 4-6 *2-2 Mannarino Simply superb battling by Conor Niland and once again, he’s right back in it. From 30-0 down, a combination of Niland’s determination and Mannarino’s inaccuracy brings him back into the game at 30-30. Mannarino drills another forehand into the net to bring up a break point and – whaddya know? – Conor whips out another of those forehand scorchers to break back. Again.

Niland 6-4 4-6 3-2* Mannarino There are a lot of “pointí mór” going down here in this third set. From 15-30 down, Niland manages to get back into it before Mannarino forces the game to deuce. Niland serves it out though and, after five games, we’ve our first hold of service in the third set. Now, let’s get back to those breaks …

Niland 6-4 4-6 *3-3 Mannarino Mannarino holds to love. A big few games in the context of this match coming up.

Niland 6-4 4-6 3-4* Mannarino Uh oh, 0-40 and Mannarino has three break points. Conor saves the first by drilling a cross-court backhand past an advancing Mannarino but a service double-fault on the next gives the Frenchman an important and timely break. That’s four breaks in Conor’s last five service games.

Niland 6-4 4-6 *3-5 Mannarino Two points against the serve bring up 0-30 in Conor’s favour and the Limerick man lets out a Murray-esque “come on!” Mannarino claws his way back into it at 40-30, but Niland is not going to let this one go without a fight, forcing deuce. He chases a Mannarino drop shot right into the net but just can’t get enough racket on it to lift it over the net. Niland’s next forehand goes long and he’s now serving to stay in the third.

Niland 6-4 4-6 4-5* Mannarino Mannarino motors to bring up three set points very quickly. Niland saves the first with an ace, despite Mannarino’s protestations and then plays the shot of the match to save the second, curling a delicious forehand around his opponent into the tightest of spaces. The third point is saved when Mannarino finds the net before Niland’s sixth ace of the day brings up an advantage. It’s a save – no, let me rephrase that, a massive and crucial save – but Mannarino will still serve for this third set.

Niland 6-4 4-6 *5-5 Mannarino A little bit of “leadóg den scoth” from Conor makes it 15-30 and, for a split second, there’s a chance he might be able to stay alive. Those huge forehands grind a break point at 30-40, but Conor’s shot just clips the top of the net. An unforced error brings up another break and … we’re back. From one corner of the court to another, Niland’s whips a forehand past Mannarino and somehow it’s 5-5 and back on serve. Big service game coming up …

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-5* Mannarino How about it, lads? How about it? Niland holds to 15 and all of the pressure shifts onto Mannarino who is now the one serving to stay in the set. Come on!

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-6 Mannarino I’ve devised a tactic. Niland just needs to keep playing his forehand and we’re in business. Mannarino’s passing shot just skips outside the line to bring up 15-30 and, as Conor stretches to lift the ball back over the net from close range, we’ve got two set points against the serve. The first is wildly wide but there’s nothing he can do about which Mannarino saves with aplomb. Niland’s very next return of service goes long and it’s advantage Mannarino. Again, a Niland forehand – what else – is too hot to handle. He’s leaving it all out on the court, that’s for sure. Back at deuce and the court is at Mannarino’s mercy, but his forehand is off target and we’ve another set point … which is saved by a huge overhead smash with Niland miles out of position. He eventually holds his serve and we’ll have a second set tie-break.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 Mannarino Conor concedes a mini-break with the very first set of the tie-break but by the time we get to Niland 3-2, we’re back on serve. He breaks one of Mannarino’s two serves to go 4-3 up on serve, but hands back the initiative immediately when a curled forehand drifts wide. A big serve brings up Mannarino 4-5 and, shortly thereafter, Conor has a chance to serve for the set at 6-5 but cannot capitalise. 6-6 and Conor holds his serve to make it Mannarino 6-7, but the Frenchman saves set point before breaking Niland to take the third set 9-7 in the tie-breaker.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 *1-0 Mannarino We’re back in business with an early break in the fourth set. Conor is starting to tire a little bit, but you can be sure he’s going nowhere without a fight. He breaks Mannarino to 30 and a service save would be very nice now.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 2-0* Mannarino Conor’s in a little bit of trouble at 30-30 but a big ace (his eighth) brings up game point and a little bit of sloppiness from Mannarino seals the deal.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 *2-1 Mannarino The mistakes are coming thick and fast from both parties now. A glimmer of a break at 30-30 is snuffed out by a Niland unforced error before a powerful Mannarino backhand gets him off the mark in this set.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 3-1* Mannarino A couple of long service returns from Mannarino quickly brings up 40-0, allowing Niland to hold serve easily. The Frenchman struggled with Conor’s serve a little bit there. Promising signs thus far in the fourth set.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 *3-2 Mannarino If Mannarino keeps making some of the mistakes he’s making, the chances will be there for Conor, that’s for sure. He pushes a lazy drop shot straight into Conor’s path to allow him to bring up 30-30. Unfortunately, a long forehand on the very next point hands that little bit of momentum straight back to Mannarino who holds to 30.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 4-2* Mannarino There’s some welly going into these Niland forehands now – he kicks the ground in disgust as he goes 0-15 down. A slip costs him any chance he had of getting to a Mannarino forehand, but he bounces right back to tie the game up at 30-30. Mannarino goes long, allowing Niland to hammer a ferocious serve for an important hold. Although they’re all important at this point …

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 *4-3 Mannarino A couple of words are exchanged between Niland and umpire as Mannarino goes 30-0 up. The Irishman clearly felt that the chair should have overruled the line judge’s call as the ball was an inch out. “You want me to overrule for an inch?” the umpire asks. I didn’t quite hear Conor’s response. Mannarino holds.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 5-3* Mannarino At this stage, every mistake could be a game-changer. A wayward forehand hands Mannarino a break point and Niland looks to be in trouble. He wins two on the bounce to bring up an advantage, but then squanders it with another wayward forehand. Eventually … somehow, don’t ask me how … Conor holds. Mannarino serving to stay in the set.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 *5-4 Mannarino Mannarino saves. Conor serving for the fourth set. It’s do-or-die time for the Irishman. Come on, Conor!

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-4 Mannarino 40-15 and two set points for Conor. Under a bit of pressure, he miscues and skies a forehand high into the sky. It matters not – Mannarino’s return at 40-30 is long and that is set four to Conor. People have been saying all day that this one would go the distance – looks like all of you were right. A second-round tie with Roger Federer awaits the winner, but who wants it more?

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-4 *0-1 Mannarino We’ve two tired players out there as Mannarino holds to love in the first service game of the decider. They’ve been playing for three hours and twenty minutes at this stage. This one will probably go to the fitter man, whoever that it. There’s nothing to choose between them, tennis-wise.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-4 1-1* Mannarino Technically-speaking, this may not be the best tennis that any of us have ever watched, but it is gripping. 15-30 down, Niland wins a great battling rally and then serves ace number nine of the afternoon to give himself a game point. He holds and he’s off the mark in the decider.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-4 *2-1 Mannarino 30-0 down, Conor plays another of those cross-court forehands just out of Mannarino’s reach before an unforced error from the Frenchman takes us to 30-30. Mannarino slaps a forehand into the net and a hush descends over Court 17 as Niland tires to take advantage of a break point. He absolutely leathers a backhand down the line and the place erupts. Break Niland, game Niland. Here we go.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-4 3-1* Mannarino Mannarino shows his frustration, throwing his racket the ground as he goes 40-15 down. Never mind, he’s got plenty more in his bag and he grabs one of them so we can carry on without delay. A lovely lob brings us to 40-30 but Niland whips out an ace to hold.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-4 *4-1 Mannarino Is this Niland chap for real? The game is finely poised at 40-40 and he pulls out a beaut of a forehand to pilfer a break. Mannarino saves it though and – again – this could go either way. And then … oh baby, break time. Conor opens up his body, plays a stunning forehand across the court and he’s two games away from a game against R-Fed.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-4 4-2* Mannarino Alright, let’s not get too excited too quickly – there’s still a bit of tennis left to be played as Mannarino reminds us all by bringing up two break points. He only needs one and what seemed cut-and-dry to some two minutes ago is back into nail-biting territory.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-4 *4-3 Mannarino It looks as though Mannarino is about to hold to love, but just as pretty much everyone bar Conor had given up all hope of getting anything out of the game, he gets it back to 40-30. Mannarino prevails though. These last few games are not gonna be easy.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-4 4-4* Mannarino “Come on Conor, hold it together” is the call from inside TheJournal / TheScore HQ. He battles his way back into the game from 0-30 but can’t help conceding one break point. He drags his forehand wide and, as one of my colleagues says to me, “this is getting messy.” We’re back on serve at 4-4.

Niland 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-4 *4-5 Mannarino This isn’t easy to watch. Betfair have just been in touch to say that Niland was as low as 1/33 to progress a few minutes ago and now, as a flailing forehand just misses at 40-30, he finds himself serving to stay in the match. The pressure is on but as Stephen Kelly (whose judgement I trust) tells us, this is “typical Niland.” He’s confident that Conor will stay mentally strong and we should be too.

Mannarino def. Niland 4-6 6-4 7-6 4-6 6-4

Well, that’s that – game, set and match Mannarino. At 30-40 and serving to stay in the match, Conor comes to the net and watches his volley drift agonisingly long. So, rather than Niland, it is Adrian Mannarino of France who will progress to the second round of Wimbledon for the first time in his career. Niland has a huge amount to be proud of in defeat, though. Judging by my Twitter timeline and other fairly accurate barometers of public interest, he’s won an awful lot of new fans for himself.

Some stats before I go?

  • 1st serve in: Niland 66%, Mannarino 63%
  • Aces: Niland 10, Mannarino 4
  • Double Faults: Niland 8, Mannarino 5
  • Unforced Errors: Niland 61, Mannarino 64
  • Winners: Niland 55, Mannarino 47
  • Break Points Won: Niland 7/19, Mannarino 7/20

That’s my lot. Thanks for stopping by over the past few hours. Losing is never fun but I think Conor can be really proud of his efforts today. See you soon.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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