Ruthless Karola a class apart
Karola Bejenaru threw off the shackles and gave an almost flawless performance at the Topaz-sponsored Belfast City ITF event at Windsor yesterday to book her place in today's final.
This week's event has been filled with those aspiring to make it to the big time but Bejenaru proved for the first time in the tournament why she is the number one seed by defeating Italian Federica Mordegan 6-1 6-0.
Not even a three-hour rain delay, which included moving the singles matches from Windsor to the indoor courts at David Lloyd, could stop Bejenaru from bulldozing her way into the decider with Dubliner Lauren Deegan who also impressed with a 6-0 6-2 victory over Israel's May Kimhi.
While in her previous two matches 16-year-old Bejenaru had suffered lapses in her level, yesterday she started on the front foot and never looked back – using the angles more and her first serve percentage shot up dramatically compared to the previous three rounds.
Having been beaten by the Italian number five in Malta back in May, Bejenaru was ready for another tough test but instead she made it easy for herself. Despite the switch of venues because of the heavy showers, Bejenaru stepped quickly into top gear again, breaking the Italian immediately.
The east Belfast girl's serve was on fire and Mordegan simply had no answer as Bejenaru sent down five aces in three service games, wrapping the match up on her second match point when an impressive forehand caused the Italian to go wide.
It was just the classy performance that Bejenaru's coach Przemek Stec had demanded of her and local top stringer Roger Henry was also taking a little bit of the credit, having re-strung her racquet to add power and spin.
Stec said: "That was the kind of performance that I know she is capable of and when she plays with that attitude, that focus, she doesn't have to fear anybody – she can go and play players higher ranked than her in Poland and Hungary next month and really take it to them.
"We spoke about the game, I expected the girl to give her a harder game because she is a very smart player and had beaten Karola before but Karola carried out exactly the way I told her to play and she never allowed her focus to drop.
"She looked like a completely different player to the one who had played her previous three matches and I hope that she will have learned from that experience this week."
Mordegan was gracious in defeat, admitting that she was stunned by the relentless power of an opponent who has now made it to four ITF finals in a row.
"She has improved a lot since May," said Mordegan.
"Her power was unbelievable, in her ground strokes and her first serve was really big. The power was too much," she added.
Bejenaru has already enjoyed one title success as last night she and Caroline Lynch defeated Israeli Kimhi and Britain's Eden Richardson 7-6 6-2 in the doubles having earlier in the day defeated Holly Forsfall and Holly Monahan, 6-1 6-2 in the semis.
Bejenaru said: "I am very happy with how I played. My focus was so much better, I was more in the zone and everything seemed to go far better for me – I think I showed people the real me.
"I was really happy with how I served because all week it is something that has been annoying me, I hadn't been getting my first serve in enough or with the same power but today it was very good.
"This time I was able to block out everything else and just focus on the ball.
"Even when they had to move the match to David Lloyd after the first set I just stayed focused on the job in hand and made a good start and everything went well from there.
"Now I have the final and I am excited about that. It was great that my club was able to bring the tournament here and for me to be in the final is fantastic – I hope that I will have plenty of support.
"Lauren is hitting the ball very well, she had a very good semi-final win so I won't be allowing myself to drop my concentration."