Beatty keen to give home fans something to cheer
Ireland Federation Cup player Ruth Copas will be the star attraction at next week's Johnston Campbell North of Ireland Open which gets under way on Sunday at the Downshire club in Hillsborough.
The Dundalk native won the inaugural event two years ago when she defeated local woman Lynsey McCullough in the ladies' singles final.
However, Copas was unable to defend her title 12 months ago due to Fed Cup commitments and she has gone on to represent her country on eight occasions.
The 21-year-old will go into the tournament as the top-seeded female, while the local challenge will be spearheaded by Ulster inter-pro ace Emily Beatty.
Beatty recently returned home for the summer after completing the third year of a four-year tennis scholarship at the University of Montevallo in Alabama.
She enjoyed a successful season on the College circuit, winning 21 out of her 25 matches between her studies for a degree in communications.
Beatty will be competing on her home courts, having been a Downshire member since she was just four years of age.
A semi-finalist two years ago, she has high hopes of at least emulating that achievement this time around.
The 21-year-old said: "I am looking forward to playing on the courts where I learned my tennis and I am really enjoying my time in America.
"It's pretty intensive with some 16 hours of lectures and 15 hours of tennis every week, so it's just nice to be home for what I hope is going to be a relaxing summer.
"We had a good year and finished 23rd in Division 2 of the Colleges set-up, which was a best ever achievement, and at a personal level, I won an award for sportsmanship which was pleasing.
"Obviously Ruth is going to be the hot favourite, and I haven't played her since we were a lot younger but it's great to see a player of her calibre taking part in the tournament."
With a total prize fund of £3,000, including £1,000 up for grabs for the men's singles champion and the ladies' purse dependent on the number of entries, the North of Ireland Open is the province's richest event.
Last year's men's champion Dave O'Hare is unable to defend his crown due to injury, meaning that the Republic of Ireland's Owen Kirk is likely to be the title favourite.
However, he will be wary of leading locals Alex Watt and Jordan McKeown, who is the current Ulster Senior Open champion.