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Shaun Oneill

Reporter:

Shaun Oneill

Email:

sport@ballymenaguardian.co.uk

MATHEW Saunders (16) and Caolan McCarrol age 14 from ATT Club will play in the Belfast City ITF (International Tennis Federation) Junior Tournament aiming for their first world ranking points!

This is a huge achievement for the boys to gain entry as it is a limited draw and they have achieved a high enough junior Irish ranking through hard work and tournament victories to be able to compete in the ITF against some of the best juniors in the world.

Both boys were a part of the ATT Men’s Singles League Team that Won Division 2 this Year!

Caolan and Mathew train in the ATT performance program and have been with the club since beginner level age 11 & 9, it’s been a long successful journey and there’s still more hard work ahead and more goals to achieve.

The tournament, hosted by Windsor Lawn Tennis Club, Belfast, is from June 23 to 29.

With support from Belfast City Council and many local sponsors including, Bank of Ireland UK, Gotto Sports, Friends of Ulster Tennis, Ballygowan, Translink, Dental Care Dundonald, Haffey Sports Grounds, Tayto, Punjana, House & Stock, Oakmore, Russell Business Centre, UBTI are able to host the sixth Belfast City Junior ITF tournament at Windsor Lawn Tennis Club this year. UBTI expect to welcome over 100 junior players from across Europe and Ireland to lead an impressive programme of world class tennis competition.

Tennis fans from around the Province are in for a display of top talent when Ulster’s elite Junior players take to the courts to compete against International opposition in the ITF event.

Ulster’s top Under 18 Jessica Leeman, who played in the main draw of the girls singles event in 2016 and reached the quarter final stage in 2017, will again aim to advance to the latter stages this year. Jessica is a Dublin City University (DCU) Tennis Ireland National Academy, Ulster Tennis Academy (UTA) and Hawarden Club player, and aims to improve her 2018 world ranking high of 1,341.

In the Boy’s singles event the current Ulster number 1 Under 18 and former UTA player, Caleb Ralston, from Portadown gained his first ITF points at the tournament in 2016 narrowly losing out to the winner, Peter Corrie, in the last sixteen of the main draw. Although Caleb missed the event in 2017 through injury he aims to return this year and continue to improve his 2018 world ranking high of 734. He reached an ITF singles semi-final in Bahrain, an ITF doubles semi-finals in Tunisia and an ITF doubles final in Liverpool. Caleb is currently undertaking a scholarship at a Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) International High Performance Centre based at the University of Bath. Local player, Jordan McKeown, who has a world ranking 1,591, will enter the tournament for the fourth and final time in his last year as a junior player. Jordan achieved his best result in 2017 when he reached the last sixteen of the main draw and he will aim to progress further in the 2018 tournament.

UBTI Development Manager, Lauren Smythe, said, “Having the Belfast City ITF Junior Tournament at Windsor Lawn Tennis Club return for the sixth consecutive year provides another exceptional opportunity for young talented tennis players from across the Province to compete in an international tournament at a home venue. It provides local players with a great chance to collect valuable world ranking points with the support of family and friends.”

UTA players Kyran Maguire from Fermanagh, Alexandros Stergiopolous from Donegal and Peter Galt from Donaghadee, are expected to compete at the event for the second time.

This year the tournament will have a particular focus on breaking down traditional barriers to tennis with a particular focus on schools, the local community and partnerships. There will be a fun event for 150 local Under 10 players and their teachers at Windsor on Friday 22nd June at the beginning of the tournament. This will be part of the Ulster Tennis Every Body Active (EBA) 2020 Tennis programme, funded by Belfast City Council, which has encouraged over 2,600 beginner players to try tennis, and get fit and healthy, since January 2017.

Ulster Tennis has organized a Celebratory event at Belfast City Hall on Sunday 24th June at 7.30pm for over 200 players, their families and Special Guests, including members of the local tennis community. It will include a finger buffet and addresses by guest speakers.

There will be an exhibition match at Windsor on Wednesday 27th June at 6.30pm featuring top Ulster Coaches and talented young players from the Ulster Tennis Academy (UTA).

Finals Day is on Friday 29th June and members of all Clubs, parents, sponsors and stakeholders are invited to watch the matches and presentations and support players.

Tournament Director and Windsor Tennis Club Coach, Simon McFarland said;

‘Having the ITF tournament at Windsor has been a great success over the last 5 years. It has been great to see so many European and International players and their coaches and families enjoying themselves in Belfast. For the Irish players, it is great to have three ITF tournaments in the country again this year and this gives them all a fantastic opportunity to gain all important ranking points. Many Windsor players have benefited, such as Karola Bejenaru, who won this Belfast event in 2013 and is now a Professional player. Caitlin & Annie McCullough, who reached the Girls Doubles Final in 2014, achieved tennis scholarships and now attend USA Colleges. We welcome all off the new and returning players back to Windsor Tennis Club.’

Greg O’Rawe, UBTI President, said, “I would like to thank members of UBTI and Windsor Lawn Tennis Club for their hard work and commitment in organizing the ITF tournament and for the continuing financial support from all sponsors. We welcome everyone to come and support the players during their matches at Windsor from 23rd to 29th June.”

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