Caitlin McCullough looks to claim top prize at North of Ireland

Johnston Campbell's Aidan Place, Caitlin McCullough  and Jordan McKeown
Johnston Campbell's Aidan Place, Caitlin McCullough and Jordan McKeown
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The third Johnston Campbell North of Ireland tennis tournament heralds the start of the new local season, with a high quality entry expected at the Downshire club in Hillsborough.

Inaugural champion, Ruth Copas will head up the ladies’ singles event and the Irish international will be out to do better than last year.

The Dundalk ace made a quarter final exit when she lost to local woman Christine Duncan.

The Ballynafeigh player went on to reach the decider in which she was beaten by Windsor player Caitlin McCullough in straight sets.

McCullough is looking forward to the tournament in which she picked up a cool £500 for last year’s triumph.

She has just completed her third 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.”

Irish Davis Cup player Peter Bothwell, from Hillsborough, will be the men’s top seed and his inclusion will leave title holder Jordan McKeown with a tough task as he bids to retain the trophy with £1,000 up for grabs.

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. But I will give it a go if it happens.”

The North of Ireland Open gets under way with first round qualifying next Sunday with the seeded players in action on Wednesday and the finals scheduled for Saturday June 15.