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Watt relishes bid to end McKeown's hat-trick aim

On course: Jordan McKeown is into the Ulster Open semis
On course: Jordan McKeown is into the Ulster Open semis

By John Flack

Jordan McKeown is on course for a third successive Ulster Open title after comfortably booking his place in the semi-finals at the Boat Club last night.

The Bangor teenager had too much power and precision for 15-year-old Hawarden player Dylan Leeman as he progressed on a 6-3 6-3 scoreline.

McKeown will now meet Alex Watt in the last four tonight after the Hilden player defeated Donaghadee youngster Peter Galt 6-2 6-1.

Watt said: "It's 1-1 between me and Jordan so far after I beat him at the North of Ireland two years ago and then he got the better of me at the David Lloyd indoor tournament last year.

"He's come on in the past couple of years while I had a bad time with injuries last season but I am fully fit now and looking forward to the challenge."

Last year's beaten finalist Cian McDonnell is also safely through after all four quarter-final ties went with the seedings.

The Boat Club teen, who made his Ulster senior debut last summer, defeated Ballymena man Matthew Saunders after his opponent was forced to retire due to injury when trailing 6-2 4-1.

Second-ranked Portadown player Caleb Ralston also progressed, beating Donaghadee's Aaron Stubbs 6-3 6-4 to earn a meeting with McDonnell tonight.

In tonight's ladies' semi-finals, defending champion and top seed Jessica Leeman will be seeking a first-ever singles win over Donaghadee's Lucy Octave.

Octave is a three-time winner of the Boat Club showpiece and missed out on an unprecedented four-in-a-row in 2017.

On that occasion, she came up against tour professional Karola Bejenaru in the final after beating the Romanian-born Windsor player in the 2014 decider.

However, Octave has only recently returned from injury, having had double hip surgery which ruled her out for a year.

Leeman, who plays for Hawarden, won the famous trophy for the first time last season when she defeated Caitlin McCullough in the final.

McCullough is the player in form, having beaten Leeman only last Saturday in straight sets in the Johnston Campbell North of Ireland final.

However, Caitlin first has to get past her twin sister Annie tonight to set up a possible rematch with Leeman and she certainly isn't underestimating the challenge.

The 21-year-old said: "Annie gave me a really tough match in the semi-finals at Hillsborough last week and I expect the same.

"If I have to lose to someone, then I wouldn't mind so much if it was against my sister but when we are on court together, both of us go all out to win."

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