Karola Bejenaru relishing defence of Windsor title
Karola Bejenaru will be the top seed when she defends her title at the ITF Junior world ranking tournament at Windsor, scheduled for July 28-August 1.
The teenager has shot up the rankings since winning the tournament last year and is now at an all-time career high.
The Belfast-based Romanian, who has moved up one place to 156, is the highest ranked player on the entry list, which closed yesterday.
Karola, who celebrated her 17th birthday at the weekend, competed in the qualifying tournament for Junior Wimbledon last week but bowed out in the first round after losing to the third seed in three sets.
She was bitterly disappointed at the time, having squandered a break point in the opening set and won the second before under performing in the decider.
But the teenager says she has got over her defeat and is looking forward to defending her title on her home courts at Windsor.
"I have analysed things with my coach and it's time to move on and look to the next tournament which will be another world ranking event at Donnybrook the week before Windsor, which I also won last year," she explained.
The Belfast City Council-backed showpiece is a Grade Five event while Karola has been taking part in higher ranked tournaments of late where more points are on offer.
"Grade Fives are quite competitive as well and I have been away from home for three months leading up to Wimbledon qualifying so I am glad to be playing the Windsor tournament." she added.
"There is always pressure and maybe more so this year as I will be the top seed but it will good to have the home support I had last year."
Her opponent in last year's final, Lauren Deegan, is also in the main draw while another southerner Julie Byrne, at 462, is the highest ranked Irish player competing.
Other local girls who will be hoping to come through qualifying include Lucy Octave, who beat Bejenaru in last month's Ulster Senior Championship final, Emily Beatty, Laura Reid and McCullough sisters, Caitlin and Annie.
Hillsborough's Sam Bothwell has been handed a direct entry into qualifying and, after beating the third seed last year only to have to withdraw through injury, will represent the province's best hope of success in the boys event.