Karola Bejenaru's dreams of making the main draw at Junior Wimbledon were shattered yesterday when she lost in first round qualifying.
The 16-year-old, who plays for Windsor, bowed out 7-5 3-6 6-1 against world number 70 and third seed Dalma Galf, but it was a case of so near, yet so far against the Hungarian.
Karola had a set point in the first and took the second comfortably only to capitulate in the decider, much to her disappointment. But she remains confident that she will learn from the experience and that she can return to London next year and make the main draw without having to qualify.
The teenager only found out that she had made the qualifiers this year at the 11th hour, having started the week as fifth on the list of alternates (reserves).
She became the first Ulster-based player to compete at Junior Wimbledon since Louise Tuff in the 1970s but her first reaction after yesterday's agonising defeat was one of bitter disappointment.
"Something went wrong mentally in the third set when I won very few points so I will have to work on that side of my game," she said. "It is not that I can't compete against players like that but the margins are very small and I will have a good talk with my coach when I get home.
"It was disappointing not to have won the first set when I had a break point on her serve but she played well to save it and then broke my serve to win it.
"I had several breaks of serve in the second and won it comfortably but I didn't play well in the third so that was very hard to take."
Karola has made rapid progress in the last 12 months since winning the ITF ranking tournament on her home courts in Belfast and currently sits at 151 in the world.
She has had some good results in the last year when she has been competing mainly in the higher-rated Grade One and Two tournaments against tougher opposition.
But she revealed after yesterday's match that she will be taking some time out at home and may not take part in any tournaments in the short-term future.
"At this moment I think it is better that I come home and spend plenty of time practising so I am not sure what my plans will be after that," added the Orangefield High School student.
Karola's coach, Polish-born Ulster champion Przemek Stec was slightly more upbeat after talking to his protégée after the match.
"She was very disappointed but it wasn't as if she had lost, say, 6-0 6-1 and she could easily have won the match had she taken the first set," he said.
"Aspects of her performance showed that she has what it takes to compete at this level and there wasn't really a lot of difference between the two players, despite the disparity in rankings.
"As she said something went wrong mentally in the final set and that is something we need to address when we have a proper chat.
"But she has another year as an Under-18 and I would like to think that in 12 months' time, we will be looking at not only making the main draw at tournaments like Junior Wimbledon but reaching the quarter and semi-finals."
Meanwhile, Peter Bothwell booked his place in the semi-finals of the Irish Close Championship at Donnybrook in Dublin last night.
The Hillsborough teenager defeated Leinster's Stephen Taylor 6-4, 6-2 to earn a meeting with home favourite and second seed Brendan Dempsey, who competes on the US Colleges circuit, in the last four tonight.
"It was very wet again out there which limited my chances of dominating the way I would have liked but the most important thing was that I got through," said Bothwell.
The 18 year-old, who is based at the Soto Academy in Spain and receives funding from the Mary Peters Trust, emerged a comfortable winner as he continues his bid to go one better after reaching the same stage of the Leinster Open a fortnight ago.