Garry Cahill’s troops looked to be very much on the ropes when James Cluskey and Conor Niland came short in the doubles contest against Tunisia on Saturday.
The 6-4 7-6 (7/5) 7-6 (7/5) win secured by Anis Ghorbel and Malek Jaziri powered the North Africans into a 2-1 lead in the five match tie, leaving Ireland having to win both of yesterday’s two reverse singles to avoid dropping down to Group Three of the Europe-Africa Zone for the first time since 2007.
But against all the odds Niland and King cam up trumps to delight the highly enthusiastic home crowd.
Wimbledon ace Niland was first up and he saw off the challenge of the Tunisian No 1 Malek Jaziri on a 7-5 7-5 6-1 margin after two hours and 40 minutes to level the tie at 2-2.
But King still had to do the business and he responded to the challenge in magnificent style by putting Ghorbel to the sword on 7-6 (9/7) 6-2 6-1 margin after two hours and 12 minutes.
“This is the best day in my tennis career,” said an elated King.
“It would have been very disappointing if we had dropped down to Group Three — especially after Conor doing so well at Wimbledon.”
The big Dubliner made a shaky start, but gradually grew in stature as the contest progressed leaving unranked Ghorbel, a second year tennis scholarship student at Drake University in Iowa, knowing that he was going to face a stiff challenge.
“I was very nervous at the start, but I gradually settled down and I fed off the energy of the crowd who were fantastic,” said King.
The 940-ranked home player broke back in the 10th game, and then saved a set point in the tie-break before wrapping up the opener.
Breaks in the first and fifth games helped King take the second set, and the Knocklyon man did even better in the third set, breaking on three occasions.
In the opening contest, Niland encountered stiff resistance in the first two sets from 293-ranked Jaziri, and he had to save four break points in the opener.
But the 171-ranked home player made no mistake on his first break point in the 12th game to take the first set.
After the players had exchanged breaks in the second set, Niland broke to love in the 12th game to take a two sets to love lead.
The third set was much more clear-cut with the Limerick man breaking in the fourth and sixth games before serving out to 15 to seal victory.