by Brendan Cole
Conor Niland’s US Open dream turned into a nightmare at Arthur Ashe Stadium as he was forced to retire during the second set of his clash with world number one Novak Djokovic.
The Limerick man, ranked 197 in the world, would have been expected to struggle against the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion under normal circumstances.
But a suspected bout of food poisoning undermined his ability to play anywhere near his best and he ended up going down 6-0 5-1 (retd).
The first set ended quickly as Djokovic's lasered groundstrokes proved impossible to return with any power or placement. Niland's backhands frequently went long and a faulty serve also meant he struggled to stay in touch.
Niland ended the match with almost 20 unforced errors.
A brief improvement saw him win his opening service game in the second set, a superb curved forehand winner - one of just three winners in the match - setting up the hold.
But Niland was clearly suffering in the heat at Flushing Meadows and each effort seemed to drain him further, while Djokovic was merciless at the other end, winners becoming easier and easier to find as his opponent wilted.
A backhand dropshot and a pummelled backhand off a short and weak second serve confirmed what had been obvious for some time – Niland would have to retire.
He walked to the net when 5-1 down in the second set, bringing an end to his second involvement at Grand Slam level this year, following his appearance at Wimbledon.
Djokovic moves on to face either Pere Riba of Spain or Carlos Berlocq of Argentina.