Local girl Bejenaru delighted to retain Irish title
Karola Bejenaru finished 2015 on a successful note as she retained the Irish National Indoor title in Dublin yesterday.
The 18-year-old Windsor player, who lifted the trophy without dropping a set, defeated Julie Byrne 6-3 6-2 in what was a repeat of last year's decider.
It was a comfortable victory for the Romanian-born player who has now set her sights on bigger and better things on the professional circuit in the New Year.
"I played pretty well all through the week and I was happy with my performance in the final against Julie so I am delighted to have finished 2015 with a win," she said afterwards.
Bejenaru can look back on a hugely successful 12 months during which she mixed her fledgling professional career with playing on the junior circuit, ending her Under-18 days by competing in two junior Grand Slams.
She played in the French Junior Open at Roland Garros and then it was off to Wimbledon for the second time in 12 months as she reached the second round of the doubles.
"Knowing it was my last year as a junior, I wanted to take part in Grand Slams and Wimbledon, in particular, was an amazing experience," added the east Belfast teenager, who went to the brink of the top 100 in the ITF junior rankings.
"I had never experienced anything like it before - everyone made you feel very special and you were treated like one of the professionals and we even had a chauffeur-driven car to take us around."
But her main focus in 2015 was to get on to the professional ladder by competing on the Futures Tour in tournaments with a total prize money of $10,000.
She also took part in a few £25k competitions and finished the year with a very respectable World ranking of 965 - something she obviously wants to improve upon in the next 12 months.
Bejenaru won her first title in the doubles event at a £10k tournament in Egypt in October after earlier in the month making it into the final of the singles at the same venue.
"I have to be happy with the way things went in my first full year on the professional tour and my target was to make it into the top 1000 so I have achieved that," Bejenaru explained.
"But next year I want to half my ranking and make it into the top 500 and if I can do that I will be very happy.
"I will again be competing in £10ks and a few £25k tournaments as well, starting in Germany in a few weeks' time.
"People may think that at 18, I am too old to make tennis a career now, but I don't think age is a factor at all as I have been in tournaments when I have seen players in their early 30s up against teenagers.
"When I was at Roland Garros, I was able to watch some of the top professionals practicing and I remember my coach saying to me that they weren't that much better technically than lower-ranked players like me so I took that on board.
"The most important thing is the mental approach to tennis.
"Once you have reached a certain level and I have been working hard at that over the past 12 months and I have seen the benefits."