Jordan's full-time training regime pays off
Rising star Jordan McKeown insisted last night, after reaching the final round of qualifying at the North of Ireland Open, that a tough decision to leave school to concentrate on tennis will help him achieve his career goals.
The 17-year-old, who has taken on a full-time training regime, battled back from a set down to beat fellow-junior Peter Galt 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in Hillsborough to move to within one win of booking his place in the main draw at the richest tournament in local tennis.
McKeown produced an upset last year when he dismissed Ulster senior inter-pro player Aaron Stubbs before bowing out to experienced Hilden player Alex Watt.
However, this year's event has attracted a huge entry, with Ulster championship runner-up of the last three years Watt joining McKeown in the qualifying draw.
The talented teen will now meet Donaghadee man Stephen McCausland, with a tough contest against second-seeded Dubliner Osgar O'Hoisin the reward for the winner.
Last night, the Bangor lad, who is affiliated to the AGP tennis academy and coached by Alex's father Paul Watt, took some time to find his rhythm against a younger opponent but he eventually came good.
McKeown realises that he will be the underdog against O'Hoisin, who was ranked just outside the world's top 500 at junior level before heading to the United States on a tennis scholarship.
McKeown said: "It was a difficult decision to leave school but I want to go as far as I can in the sport, so hopefully it will produce dividends.
"I train six days a week and my initial target is to get some more world-ranking points on the junior ITF circuit after coming through qualifying to reach the first round proper in the tournament at Windsor last year.
"I am planning to take part in all three Irish ITF tournaments this year and hopefully build on last year when I managed to beat the top seed in qualifying before going down in the main draw.
"I have been happy with my progress so far this season when I've had one tournament victory at the Hilden junior event and two runners-up finishes after winning the spring national match plays.
"I realise that if I can beat Stephen to get into the main draw in Hillsborough, which in itself won't be easy, then it will be really difficult against Osgar, whom I have never played before.
"There's a really strong entry this year but whatever the result in the final round of qualifying, I will certainly learn from the experience."
In last night's other qualifier, McCausland set up a meeting with McKeown after Irish over-55 international Tony Davison had to retire with a leg injury when trailing 6-1, 5-2.