Karola sets perfect example
Karola Bejenaru's international success should be an inspiration every young tennis player in the country, according to her coach Przemek Stec.
Ahead of the 16-year-old's opening match at the first ever ITF under-18 tournament to come to Northern Ireland, Stec says the hard work she has put in allied to Bejenaru's mental fortitude has seen her rise to new heights, making her an example to all.
"I think Karola is showing every young player in Northern Ireland that they can dare to dream to become a top junior and even a professional tennis player," said Stec, who is head coach at Windsor where the tournament is being staged this week.
"Maybe before there wasn't that belief here before, but now Karola is demonstrating what can be achieved when you have the right support around you and you have that deep belief in yourself."
Bejenaru enters the event as the number one seed by virtue of having been in three successive ITF finals, most recently winning at Donnybrook.
And her recent form, according to Stec, is evidence of not only the hard work that she has put in over the past 12 months, but also how she has become comfortable at this level of competition.
"I had a hit with Karola after she came back from Donnybrook and in the three weeks she has been away I could tell that she has learned more from those three weeks of competition than she could have in three months training," added Stec.
"Her confidence is very high, she knows that at this level she can beat anybody and now we have to move her on to the next level of ITF so that her ranking can move up from around 250, where she should be when the latest rankings come out.
"I am very proud of the way she has taken her game on.
"She has put the work in, her dad Leonard has sacrificed a lot to get her to many ITF tournaments and it has paid off.
"Now she has the tournament at Windsor and there will be a lot of expectation around her, but I know she is ready for that and the main thing is that she doesn't get carried away because there is still a long way to go and a lot of hard work ahead of her."
Today Bejenaru starts her campaign at Windsor against Austrian qualifier Lisa Friess, while fellow Ulster players Laura Reid, Emily Beatty and Lucy Octave face Brazilian Karolayne Alexandre Rosa, American Alyssa Mayo and Italian Federica Mordegan, respectively.
In the boys event, Hillsborough's Peter Bothwell – who is the No. 3 seed – faces Britain's William Bissett, while his brother Sam has been matched with number eight seed Charlie Ridout, also of Britain.
Donaghadee's Aaron Stubbs faces Belarussian Uladzimir Dorash, while Comber's Matthew McClurg meets Britain's Daniel Little, the number seven seed.
Meanwhile, at the Belfast hardcourt championships at CIYMS on Saturday, Peter Corrie and Ben McClurg shared the under-14 and under-16 titles, respectively after two entertaining finals.
Corrie won the under-14s 7-5 6-0 having been 5-2 down while McClurg returned to the court two hours later to take his revenge, 6-4 6-1.
The girls under-14 title went to Jessica Leeman, defeating Megan Chambers 6-3 6-3 before losing in the under-16 final to Bangor's Amy Rothwell 6-2 6-2.
Aiobhinn Kelly won the girls under-18 title, beating Katherine Hill 6-1 6-1, while Chris Madden McKee beat David Weir 7-6 6-1 in the boys under-18 final.