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Best yet to come from Karola

By David Kelly

Top coach Przemek Stec isn't an easy man to please and while Karola Bejenaru moved through to the semi-finals of the Topaz-sponsored Belfast City ITF event at Windsor yesterday he expects more from the 16-year-old – much more.

Bejenaru, watched at courtside by among others former Great Britain Federation Cup player and Lawn Tennis Association coach Claire Curran, moved through to the last four with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Cheshire's Eden Richardson but not without moments when Stec was less than happy.

"Karola knows that she can play better than that and she will have to in the semi-final," said Windsor coach Stec.

"I am happy that she won because it's never easy playing at a home tournament, I know that from my own experience – but she has to deal with it and improve."

The Windsor club player charged into a 4-0 lead despite a low first serve percentage as under-16 British number two Richardson simply found the power of Bejenaru too hot to handle.

Richardson then held for the first time before Bejenaru played a poor service game, hitting a short ball into the net with the court wide open, followed by further unforced errors.

Moments later and further forehand errors allowed Richardson to tie the match at 4-4.

Just when it seemed that the match was slipping away from her control, Bejenaru broke Richardson's serve and then found her forehand again to clinch the set.

Another minor wobble came in the second set when after going 3-0 up Bejenaru was broken as Richardson used her defensive skills to draw out more errors from the number one seed.

Bejenaru broke straight back but then dropped her serve again before Richardson held and once more the pressure was on the Romanian-born east Belfast girl.

But – just as she did in her second round match – Bejenaru moved up a gear when she needed to most, held with her best service game of the match and then after the third deuce converted her first match point with a thumping forehand.

Stec, a former world No.3 junior, knows that Bejenaru can expect a tough examination of her mental strength when she faces Italian Federica Mordegan – ranked five in her country – in today's last four clash of a tournament in which every player is aspiring to follow in the footsteps of their Tour heroes.

Mordegan showed plenty of guile and craft when defeating Irish girl Julie Byrne 6-1 6-2.

Stec said: "Karola had moments when she seemed to lose focus, she allowed Richardson to come back into the match when she should have killed her off in that first set, so that can't happen against the Italian.

"There are things that we will be working on, I want her to maintain the level that she is capable of and if she does that then she will be in the final.

"But we know that this girl is dangerous because earlier in the year at the ITF in Malta she beat Karola in the first round so this is going to be an exciting match.

"The good thing about the win over Richardson is that when she found herself under pressure Karola brought out some of her best tennis and that is always a good sign."

Bejenaru admitted that she gave herself some anxiety during the match, even though she had made such a fine start – unlike in her last 16 match.

"I know that I lost focus at times, I think maybe in the first set because I went 4-0 up I was just thinking: 'well that should be the set' but tennis isn't like that and then she came back at me and I started making silly mistakes," said Bejenaru.

"When it went to 4-4 it seemed to wake me up and I started playing some good tennis again and I got the set and then got in front again but then again I lost concentration and allowed her to get closer.

"I am pleased that when I needed to I was able to produce some good shots. I know that it's going to be a tough semi-final, the Italian played very well against Julie Byrne but I am really looking forward to it."

Belfast Telegraph

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