Peter and Sam keep winning form in the family

Sixteen year old Sam Bothwell is following in the footsteps of his older brother Peter with both enjoying recent success on the court
Sixteen year old Sam Bothwell is following in the footsteps of his older brother Peter with both enjoying recent success on the court

It must be something in the genes! That’s what Ulster tennis folk are saying about the recent and on going success enjoyed by the Bothwell brothers Sam and Peter.

Peter, at 18 the older of the brothers, recently picked up his first world ranking point at adult level and, at the weekend, it was the turn of Sam to hog the limelight.

The 16 year-old maintained a proud family tradition on Saturday when he claimed the Under 18 boys singles title at the Irish Junior Championship in Dublin.

The Hillsborough teenager, a previous U-12 winner at the Fitzwilliam tournament, defied the odds and the seedings for the third time in the space of as many days when he defeated second-ranked Coilin McNamara 1-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the final.

Bothwell, who was ranked fifth, had earlier beaten the fourth and first seeds as he became the third family member to lift a title at the premier junior tournament in Ireland.

He had to dig deep in the final after losing heavily in the first set to McNamara who was roared on by a partisan home crowd.

But he showed tremendous resilience in the final two sets to hold his nerve and his serve to take the match and secure his second national title in the most prestigious tournament on the Irish calendar.

So what about those genes? Well, his mother Lousie won the corresponding girls title in 1977, at the age of 15 while Peter lifted the U-16 boys trophy in 2011.

Louise also went on to play at Wimbledon and played for and acted as non-playing captain for Ulster for many years.

Sam’s dad Nigel was also a talented tennis player having taken up the sport at a relatively late age after being a decent footballer in his younger days.

Both parents have made huge sacrifices to fund their boys’ respective tennis careers and early retirement is not an option for either of them.

Playing tennis costs a considerable amount of money with prize money not having risen for years on the Futures Tour.

In fact by reaching the first round proper of the US Open this week, Irish number one James McGee, ranked 194 in the world, scooped a quarter of his entire career earnings by coming through qualifying.

Sam, named after his late grand father who was a renowned tennis coach, was ranked as high as 111 in Europe at U-14 will compete at ITF U-18 events in the run up to Christmas.

He took part in the recent City of Belfast ITF junior tournament at Windsor but made a first round exit to eventual winner Ewan Moore.

But his practice time had been limited in the build up due to examinations and his weekend success certainly proves that he is back to his best.

Sam will join his older brother at the Soto Academy next month when he will receive expert tuition as well as continue his studies.

“He will train hard on his physical conditioning at Soto with the physical coaches and he hopes he can accompany Peter to and compete at some men’s Futures in 2015,” said Sam’s mum, Louise.

And Sam says that his brother - and watching parents - were instrumental in his success on Saturday when his Dublin-based opponent had the bulk of the support.

The 16 year-old will be following in his brother’s footsteps next month when he continues his studies and his tennis at the Soto Academy in southern Spain.

“I had trained with Peter at Soto for two weeks before the tournament and was so pleased to have the Academy Director, Dan Kiernan, at Fitzwilliam on the Wednesday and Thursday,” Sam said.

“Peter came back on Friday evening to warm me up before and support me in the final and that was a great help as well.”

Sam, who is funded by his parents, will now turn his attention to clocking up junior world ranking points over the next few months when he will be competing in ITF tournaments.

He hopes to join his older brother, who picked up his first world ranking point as a professional a matter of weeks ago, on the pro tour next year.

Younger brother Sam may be a top tennis player in the making but he is also something of a sporting all-rounder.

Earlier this year he scored one of the tries as Dromore High landed rugby’s High Schools’ Trophy for the ninth time in 10 years with a 34-3 win over Fivemiletown Secondary at Upper Malone.

But tennis is the name of the game from here on in after excelling in the sport from an early age as Ulster Tennis representative Rosamund Thompson recalls.

“I remember seeing this wee fella who was almost dwarfed by his racquet walking on to the court at Ballycastle but boy could he play!” she enthused.

Sam’s mother and father Nigel were naturally delighted with Sam’s win at the weekend and they are currently busy attempting to secure sponsorship for both boys.

“It was a difficult tennis season because It was GCSE year and Sam’s training and tournament schedule was limited,” Louise explained.

“Sam wasn’t at his normal level of last year when he starting competing again but he has worked hard over six weeks to get his confidence and energy levels back.”

“It will be a big challenge to support both Peter and Sam’s tournament schedule but hopefully with Peter making a bit of history being the province’s first world ranked man we can now generate some financial support.

“Both boys are hard workers are ambitious and want to promote Northern Ireland tennis on the world stage.”