Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Hagan battles back to edge Open thriller

Back hand: Matthew McClurg sends down a return during his win over Bill Jennings at the Ulster Junior Open

Calum Hagan came through a little epic at the Clubworld Ulster Junior Open to book his place in the semi-finals of the under-18s.

In arguably the match of the tournament so far Belfast lad Hagan and Bangor's Alasdair Knox went toe-to-toe for three hours 16 minutes – one of the longest matches at the tournament in recent years. In the end Hagan had the edge after a nerve-tingling final set, 4-6 6-3 7-6.

Hagan, a student at RBAI, held his nerve to save a match point having failed to convert his own first match point earlier in the final set tie-break. Off the hook, Hagan grabbed the initiative and played two of his best points to seal victory in a match that both lads can take great credit from.

Hagan, a member of Belfast Boat Club, is a former under-16 finalist, but this is the furthest he has been in the under-18s and the host club's head coach Ben Neal was naturally proud of the way the teenager remained strong in the crunch points.

Neal said: "It was a really tough match, they engaged in some very long baseline rallies – Calum's forehand was working very well and Knox was neutralising that with his slice. The match really could have gone either way.

"I'm really pleased with the character that Calum showed. After failing to take the first match point that could have got to him, but he saved one and then took the match. That will give him a lot of confidence going into the semi-final.

"He has worked very hard on his game with our coach Carlos Miranda privately and with myself in the squads. His fitness has improved and that showed in the match because he kept up a very good level throughout the three hours."

After a short rest, Hagan was then back on court in the under-18 doubles with Justin Gilmore and they managed to defeat Sean Laird and Dylan Robinson 6-4 6-1.

Hagan will today face Matthew McClurg in the semis as the Comber lad comfortably defeated Bill Jennings 6-2 6-3. The other semi-final will be between Aaron Stubbs and Chris Madden-McKee.

Stubbs eased through with a 6-1 6-1 victory over Windsor's Leon Gibson and a 6-2 6-1 win against David Weir Madden-McKee had a tougher path, defeating Noah Fleming 6-7 6-1 6-1 after two hours 13 minutes.

Emily Beatty bounced back from a heartbreaking defeat in the Belfast City ITF event at the Windsor club on Tuesday to progress to the under-18s at the Boat Club.

Beatty, though, had to show her mettle as she dropped the first set to Windsor's Annie McCullough before taking the next two 6-0 6-4. She will face Eva Lennox in the last four, while the other semi-final will see Lucy Octave face Ruth Copas.

Octave was too strong for Annie's sister Caitlin, winning 6-3 6-0, while in the pouring rain Dundalk girl Copas ground out a 6-4 6-2 victory over Katherine Hill of CIYMS.

Peter Corrie progressed to the under-14 and under-16 semi-finals after defeating Fintan Meehan 6-0 6-0 and then Chris Cree retiring just three games into their quarter-final.

Corrie will face Tom Harty in the under-14s semi-finals after he won an entertaining tie with Caleb Rolston, 1-6 6-4 6-4. Ben McClurg and Jordan McKeown meet in the other semi after defeating Zac Wilson 6-1 6-0 and Rory Cunningham 6-4 6-3, respectively.

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