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Octave is back on song after injury nightmare

 

Fourth win: Lucy Octave after her Ulster Open victory
Fourth win: Lucy Octave after her Ulster Open victory

By John Flack

Lucy Octave is targeting a place in the record books after lifting her fourth Ulster Open singles title at the Boat Club on Saturday - only a year after fearing her tennis career was over.

The Donaghadee player defeated second seed Caitlin McCullough 6-3, 6-0 to move to within one win of Lesley O'Halloran's record tally at the south Belfast venue.

Octave was unseeded but that was only due to the fact she didn't have a recent track record in the province, having been out of action for 10 months after undergoing double-hip surgery.

The 21-year-old is preparing to enter her third year of a tennis scholarship at the University of Utah where she is studying Marketing and Accounting.

It was a traumatic time for Octave and, at one stage, she believed her playing days were over and had that been the case, it would have ended her scholarship and put her degree prospects in jeopardy.

She said: "Yes, when I was told I would have to have surgery on both hips, I feared the worst and really felt that was it as far as my tennis was concerned."

"But fortunately, I was in the best possible hands at the university and I came through it fine and then it was a matter of trying to get back to where I was before I became injured.

"It was a long and, at times, frustrating process but I was eventually given the all-clear to play again last January.

"I wouldn't say I am 100% fit just yet but I am getting there slowly but surely although I had to take painkillers before going on the court until quite recently and I knew I was going to be sore when I woke up the day after playing Caitlin."

Having made a remarkable recovery from her career threatening injury, Octave says tennis has taken on a new perspective.

She added: "I am a different sort of player now and I no longer put myself under the same sort of pressure as I did before the injury and I am just so relieved to be back playing again."

"Having said that, it was great to lift another Ulster Open title after winning three in a row between 2014 and 2016 and then reaching the final the following year.

"I felt I played pretty solidly against Caitlin but the scoreline didn't do her justice as there were a lot of deuce games.

"Hopefully, I will have now done enough to get back into the Ulster team after missing out with the injury last year when the senior inter-pros were held in the province."

While Octave will be aiming to make it five titles next year, Caleb Ralston is celebrating winning his first Boat Club trophy after beating top seed and holder Jordan McKeown 6-3, 7-6 in the men's singles final.

The result signalled swift revenge for the 19-year-old Lurgan man, who had lost to McKeown at the North of Ireland Open in Hillsborough.

Ralston who is on a tennis scholarship at Bath University said: "It's been a few years since I competed at the Boat Club and I am delighted that my name is now on the roll of honour."

"I thought it was a high quality match and Jordan gave me a really tough battle.

"Hopefully, I can build on this success with the Leinster and Irish Open tournaments to come."

Meanwhile, at the Belfast City junior ITF tournament, qualifying continued at Windsor yesterday with a win for local teen Rachel McCrum but defeats for Isabella Connor and Matthew Saunders.

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