An 18th century house overlooking Strangford Lough in County Down

Hard ball

Algarve and Portugal No1 Rui Machado is finding life tough amongst the world’s tennis elite.

Following his first round exit to eventual finalist Gael Monfils in Doha the 27-year-old lost out 6-3, 7-6 to sixth seed Thomaz Bellucci following their opening match in Auckland.

Ranked No68, Machado will now hope for a better showing at the Australian Open which begins this Monday.