Karola chasing Wimledon dream
Karola Bejenaru is moving up in the world and ambitious coach Przemek Stec has set her the target of making junior Wimbledon in 2014.
The 15-year-old Orangefield High student recently returned from a month of back-to-back tournaments and her success in Malta and Nottingham has seen her leap 300 places into 573 in the International Tennis Federation rankings.
Romanian-born Bejenaru, sponsored by Dominos Pizza, made the semi-finals of the singles and the final of the doubles in her last event in Nottingham and now Windsor Tennis Club coach Stec believes she is ready to step up another level – once she has got her GCSEs out of the way.
Stec said: "Karola did very well in Nottingham – the girl she lost to in the first week she then defeated in the second week and only lost in a very close semi-final to a girl who the LTA are backing.
"Those British girls she was up against and most of the other girls in the ITF are much more experienced, they have the funding to play many more tournaments.
"Come the summer she will hopefully be able to do a few more and by the end of the year I have set her the target of reaching the top 200.
"That means she will be moving up from the grade four and five events to grade two, three and grade one. It's a big challenge but I believe she can do it.
"She is working hard with the rest of the squad at Windsor and they are all progressing the way I wanted them to when we set up our elite squad last September.
"If Karola can get to 200 by the end of the year then that will be a great starting point for her to push hard to get to Wimbledon.
"She needs as many tournaments as possible now."
Dad Leonard's belief in his daughter to be able to compete and succeed at this level has clearly been vindicated.
"Karola went to another level in Nottingham, she fought so hard and she showed everybody her potential. At times I didn't think it was my daughter!" said Leonard.
"Przemek has been doing a great job with Karola, pushing her on and we have been thankful to Dominos for their help in sponsoring her when going to UK tournaments."
Bejenaru's rise up the rankings has coincided with 16-year-old Peter Bothwell of Hillsborough also moving up the under-18 ladder. The Spanish Academy-based player is now ranked at 590 and he is also looking forward to a very exciting summer.
Bothwell has decided to remain at the Soto Academy in southern Spain, despite having two firm offers of scholarships at universities in America.
Dad Nigel explained that Peter wants to have another 18 months maturing on the clay at Soto before making an assault on trying to crack it as a professional.
The whole issue of elite level junior tennis is to be discussed at an EGM of Tennis Ulster on June 25 at the House of Sport.
It is clear to many that the Ulster squad system of recent years has failed to deliver success comparable with other sports in Northern Ireland.
On the back of concerns aired at the AGM, it is now expected that coaches and parents will come to the EGM and give their views on what needs to change.
It is known that many within the sport are very frustrated with the lack of any financial support for young aspiring juniors such as Bejenaru and Bothwell as well as the fractured nature of the sport with the majority of top juniors having decided to opt out of the Ulster squad.