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McKeown relishing battle against old foe Ralston at Windsor

 

By John Flack

Local rivals Jordan McKeown and Caleb Ralston will go head-to-head today in the second round of the boys' singles at the Belfast City junior ITF tournament at Windsor, guaranteeing Ulster representation in the quarter-finals.

The 18-year-olds chalked up impressive victories yesterday as McKeown beat Great Britain's Matthew Gibson-Smith 6-2 6-0, while Ralston overcame Hungarian Benedek Herman 6-3 7-6.

They were rivals at under-age level until a couple of years ago but their paths haven't crossed since Ralston moved to Bath to continue his studies.

Ralston is seeded sixth for the tournament, but McKeown is in good form having retained his Ulster Senior Open title at the Boat Club on Saturday.

The Bangor teen was happy with his performance in yesterday's opener.

McKeown said: "I played great, served well and it was a perfect match to get my tournament going.

"As far as playing Caleb goes, it will be a tough match and we had a great rivalry a few years back before he moved to Bath.

"But I've come a long way since then and I'm sure he has too, so it will be a great contest and I am looking forward to it."

Ralston says he will be focusing on getting his own game right as he prepares for his first appearance at this stage of the Belfast tournament.

He said: "I don't pay attention to draws as I just play each match as it comes and prefer to concentrate on my own game.

"I was happy with the win and was pleased to hold serve throughout. I finished strongly in the tiebreak, which I won 7-1 to seal victory."

Elsewhere in the boys' singles yesterday, there were defeats for locals Will Millar, Cian McDonnell and Dylan Leeman.

Millar lost 6-1 6-1 to Italy's Gilberto Casucci, McDonnell went down 6-4 6-4 to Spaniard Oscar Tejera Ecenarro and 15-year-old Leeman produced a brave battle against Portugal's Evan Morgan, losing 2-6 6-3 6-2.

Dylan's older sister Jessica kept the family flag flying, progressing to the second round of the girls' singles with a 6-4 6-3 win over England's Olivia Rook.

The newly-crowned Ulster Senior Open champion, who is seeded sixth, will meet Ireland's Roisin Murphy today.

Jessica (18) said: "I have never played Roisin before, so I don't know what to expect but I'm looking forward to it.

"I was happy with my display, it was a good start."

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