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There's no place like home, says Bothwell as he targets big prize


Local aces: Aidan Place (middle) of sponsors Johnston Campbell with Caitlin McCullough (left) of Windsor Tennis Club and Jordan McKeown at the launch of the North of Ireland Open
Local aces: Aidan Place (middle) of sponsors Johnston Campbell with Caitlin McCullough (left) of Windsor Tennis Club and Jordan McKeown at the launch of the North of Ireland Open

By John Flack

Peter Bothwell will be the star attraction at the third Johnston Campbell North of Ireland Open which kicks off the local tournament calendar next week at the Downshire club in Hillsborough.

The 23-year-old Irish Davis Cup player competes on the professional tour and is currently ranked 617th in the world, which is just 13 places below his career best.

Bothwell will be seeded to win the event, which is being staged on the courts where he learned his tennis as a youngster before turning full-time at the age of 17.

He says he's delighted to be able to fit the tournament into his busy schedule and will start as a hot favourite to lift the £1,000 top prize awarded to the men's singles winner, making the North of Ireland the province's richest event by some distance.

Bothwell said: "I'm obviously really excited about being able to play a quality tournament at the club where I grew up.

"I'm looking forward to playing and I'm sure quite a few members will be out watching all week."

Bothwell, who is the current Irish Open champion, has hit a rich vein of form in recent weeks, winning his fifth pro doubles title and reaching two singles semi-finals and two quarters at ITF tournaments in Georgia and Crete, underlining his favourite tag on his homecoming.

He added: "My last four tournaments have been very solid and I've been performing well and feel good about my game.

"I've got some momentum and I'm looking forward to coming home for a few matches to get sharp for my next tournaments on the road. Match practice is so important and it's good to try work on things in a competitive environment."

There is also a possibility that Bothwell's younger brother Sam will take part in the Hillsborough showpiece, although he may have to concentrate on the doubles events as he recovers from injury.

With Bothwell's name now on the entry-list, title holder Jordan McKeown will clearly have his work cut out to hold on to the trophy he won for the first time last season.

However, the 19-year-old from Newtownards says he will relish the challenge should the pair's paths cross in the latter stages of the tournament as expected.

McKeown stepped up from the junior ranks last year after completing a notable double when he added the Ulster Open trophy to his collection as he retained his crown at the Boat Club.

He said: "Peter is one of the best players in Ireland, if not the best, and there would certainly be no pressure on me should we face each other.

"In fact, I would really love to play him for the first time to see where I stand and I've been working hard at my game since entering the senior ranks.

"You can't get away with things the same as at junior level and it's obviously a step up in class so I have been concentrating a lot on perfecting my serves and returns, in particular."

Spearheading the local challenge in the ladies singles event will be Caitlin McCullough, who defeated Ballynafeigh's Christine Duncan in three sets in last year's final.

The Windsor ace has just completed her second year of a tennis scholarship at Tusculum University in Tennessee where she is studying accountancy.

McCullough said: "I was surprised and delighted to win at Hillsborough last year and I am really looking forward to it this time around.

"I have had a good year in America but making the transition from the slower hard courts over there to the fast astroturf ones here will again be challenging as the two surfaces are so different."

The event gets underway next Sunday with the seeded players entering the fray later in the week.

Belfast Telegraph


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