Belfast club Windsor will be the stage for the first ever top European junior tennis event to be staged this summer in Northern Ireland.
It is understood the International Tennis Federation under-18 event will take place in the last week of July with the strong possibility that simultaneously the first ever European Tennis Association under-14 tournament will also be held here.
It would seem that everything is now in place for the ITF event with sponsorship — the final piece in the jigsaw — expected to be signed and sealed very shortly.
It is a major breakthrough for the sport here with local players having the chance to take on some of the best young juniors in Europe.
Tennis Ireland Competitions Convenor George Stevenson, who last year received a special award from the European Tennis Association for his services to the sport, has been working diligently on bringing the events here for the first time after years in which they have been staged in either Dublin or Cork.
Stevenson said: “We are very close to tying everything up. To bring an ITF event for the first time would be a big coup, it would raise the profile of the sport here greatly.
“Our kids are at a disadvantage in that they usually have to get on a plane to face European competition, there’s always a big cost, but now they will have the chance to compete on the European stage at home — and because it will be here more of our top juniors will have the chance to enter.
“I would expect players from the likes of Spain, France, Britain, and Russia to be here and, all being well, I hope that this will become a regular fixture.
“In fact, with the right indoor facility, with the right surface, I would look to hold a European event in March as well.”
One of those who will immediately benefit is Irish under-18 champion Karola Bejenaru, a member of Windsor, who will be competing in a series of ITF events over the coming months.
Karola’s dad Leonard said: “It would be great to have an ITF here and if Karola can compete on her own club court that would be even better. The people in Northern Ireland will get to see just how high the standard is in Europe.”
The under-14 event will most likely go ahead at Bangor tennis club with many of Ulster’s top girls and boys having the chance to take part.
Meanwhile, Ireland take on Estonia this weekend in the Davis Cup, starting in Dublin today.