TENNIS: Karl Donaldson strikes first in North of Ireland Open

Rafael Nadal.
Rafael Nadal.

Karl Donaldson was the first player to make it into the main draw as qualifying for the men’s singles continued at the Johnston Campbell North of Ireland Open at the Downshire club in Hillsborough.

The Ulster senior inter-pro ace, who plays for the ATT club in Ballymena, defeated Hawarden’s Rory Cunningham 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 following a marathon struggle.

Donaldson’s win earns him a quarter final tie with Alex Watt in the main event on Thursday night.

It promises to be a close fought contest as Watt has only recently made a comeback from a long-term shoulder injury so may lack match sharpness.

However, the Hilden player successfully came through the Windsor Super Set tournament at the weekend, losing narrowly in the final.

Donaldson was in the unusual position of having to qualify for the main draw despite the fact he has been a regular semi-finalist at some of the province’s major tournaments in recent years.

Elsewhere in qualifying, Kildare visitor Dorian Kos was too strong for Windor’s Will Boyd as he set up a clash with Jordan McKeown with a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

Harry Ellesmere also progressed as the Bangor teenager defeated Donaghadee’s Peter Galt on an emphatic 6-0, 6-1 scoreline.

However, the draw hasn’t been kind to Ellesmere as he now faces the daunting prospect of taking on top seed Owen Kirk.

The Dubliner has claimed some notable scalps in the recent past and is a warm favourite to lift the title on his first visit to Hillsborough.

The remaining quarter final will be contested by Aaron Stubbs and second seeded Munster player Morgan Lohan.

Last night Stubbs (Donaghadee) another Ulster senior inter-pro player, who had to qualify, overcame Hawarden teenager Dylan Leeman 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 after a tough match which went to the wire.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club, three days after winning his 11th French Open title.

He has pulled out for the third consecutive year.