Karola Bejenaru shows mettle to serve up stunning win
Karola Bejenaru produced the victory of her young career at a Grade 1 event in the Czech Republic yesterday, demonstrating that a place at junior Wimbledon this summer is a real possibility.
Bejenaru, who defeated a Czech in the first round, sealed her place in the last 16 after a rollercoaster battle with World number 53 Anna Bondar of Hungary.
The east Belfast teenager, born in Romania, came into the DHL Czech International Junior Indoor Championships ranked 191 and was a huge underdog against number three seed Bondar.
That view seemed to be compounded when the Windsor tennis club girl went 4-0 down in the opening set and it was still looking ominous at 5-2 to the Hungarian.
But then Bejenaru seemed to loosen up more and a combination of winners and good defence as she scrambled for every ball saw her reel off five straight games to take the set. From then one there was very little between the two with Bondar fighting back to take the second set 6-3.
Bejenaru, who is sponsored by the Dominos pizza shop on the Lisburn Road where dad Leonard works, held her serve at the start of the deciding set which then went with serve. The 16-year-old produced her best return of service game at just the right time to bring up two match points.
Bondar saved the first but after a long rally, Bejenaru punched her first with delight and yelled at father Leonard "I won dad!"
Bejenaru, who made the second round at the grade two event in Slovakia last week will now face Russia's number 15 seed Anastasia Nefedova, who also defeated Serbian Nikolina Jovic 6-3 4-6 6-4.
Dad Leonard said: "I have never seen Karola fight so hard – it was like she was fighting for her life.
"She was really up against it in the first set but really fought like a tiger to win the set. Then in the last set she served really well to keep the pressure on the Hungarian who played very well too.
"This was by far Karola's best performance, at times I could hardly believe it was my daughter! Now she plays the Russian girl and we know it's going to be another tough match."
Bejenaru, also through to the second of the doubles, had lost to Anna Kalinskaya last week, the Russian going on to win the tournament. But yesterday the number 47 exited at the second round stage.
Bejenaru's coach Przemek Stec said: "This is a massive win for Karola and I hope this gives her the belief to go on and at least make the semis and push herself further up the rankings."