Karola Bejenaru is gunning for grand slams hat-trick
Karola Bejenaru is aiming to end her junior days with an unprecedented treble for an Ulster tennis player as she bids to make it to the last three remaining grand slam events - the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
The 17-year-old east Belfast teenager heads to Italy tomorrow with dad Leonard for four back-to-back clay court tournaments as she seeks to secure her place in qualifying for Roland Garros next month.
The first two events are crucial as the points gained from those will go towards her ranking at the time of the cut-off for the French Open junior championships.
Whether she makes it to Roland Garros or not, the Windsor Tennis club player will then have her sights on Wimbledon.
Recently voted Belfast's Young female sports personality of the year, Karola is in her last year as a junior and is also looking ahead to some senior Future Tour events in the summer as she eases towards the professional ranks next year.
But for now it's all about improving on her world ranking of 123, having at one stage been at 110.
"I'm really excited about the next few months and my goal is to try and make it to all three Grand Slams," she said.
"It's not going to be easy and to be honest the toughest to get in to is probably Roland Garros but I have a chance of making it to all three," said Karola, who has been brought along expertly to this level by Polish coach Przemek Stec.
"For me and my dad who has been with me all the way it would be a dream come true to play at Roland Garros. I was at Wimbledon last year and I want to be there again - the buzz around those tournaments is just amazing.
"The next two tournaments in Italy are going to be very important, I have to be looking at getting to the semi-finals.
"Moving from training on the courts here to playing on clay is tough - you're going from a certain way of playing where the ball is coming at you fast and you're hitting flat to playing on clay which is slower and you have to be a lot more patient.
"I probably have three days hitting before my first match so hopefully I can find my rhythm.
"I believe I'm a lot more confident on the court now, mentally I'm stronger - I know I can match up to any of the girls and I want to break into the top 100 as soon as possible and then get to the top 50.
"My game has improved a lot over the past 12 months and my confidence is a lot higher - even when things are not going well I'm much stronger."
While she continues to train at Windsor, in order to get a higher standard of hitting Karola has been on the road to Dublin where she has managed to have some court time with Irish professional Amy Bowtell, who is currently ranked 392 in the world.
"It's been great hitting with Amy at times, she's playing at a very high level and I have also been hitting with some of the top junior boys in Dublin which has helped," Karola said.
"So I'm ready to go and give it my best shot," Karola added.
Meanwhile, Belfast's Freddy Murray is making very good progress on the Irish junior scene.
The 11-year-old Strandtown Primary School pupil recently triumphed in the under-12s at the Templeogue tournament in Dublin.
Now ranked as the number one under-12 Irish junior boy, Freddy - coached by Paul Taylor at David Lloyd, Dundonald - will be hoping to continue his success in a series of tournaments from June through to August, north and south of the border.