Jordan McKeown and Caitlin McCullough made history on Saturday when they became the first local players to win the respective singles titles at the Johnston Campbell North of Ireland Open championship in Hillsborough.
Bangor teenager McKeown came from a set down to defeat second seeded Waterford man Morgan Lohan 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 while McCullough staged an even more stunning comeback to lift the ladies title.
The Windsor player trailed 4-1 in the first set before reeling off 10 games in a a row to beat Ballynafeigh’s Christine Duncan 6-4, 6-2.
Duncan had defeated the top seeded Irish Federation Cup player Ruth Copas in the semi-finals but was no match for the 20-year-old Windsor player on Saturday.
McCullough said: “The blustery wind and rain made it difficult for both of us at the start when there were several breaks of serve.”
“But I didn’t panic when I was behind and I have improved the mental side of my game over the past couple of years.
“I was delighted with the result and to lift the title for the first time has to go down as the best win of my career.”
It was the same for McKeown, who rated his success more highly than his Ulster Senior Open final victory of 12 months ago.
He said: “The standard of the entry at Hillsborough was higher than at the Boat Club last year and Morgan is a super player.”
“I knew I could beat him even after losing the first set because it was very close and there were only a couple of mistakes of a difference between us.
“I was a little bit nervous when I was serving to win the match but fortunately, I managed to hold my nerve and clinch what was definitely the best win of my career.”
The tournament, now in its third year, was voted a huge success by all concerned and the hard working volunteers at the Downshire club certainly rolled out the red carpet.
The club boasts a picturesque setting on the fringe of the local forest park and there was a Wimbledon-style atmosphere on finals day.
Fortunately after a few heavy showers that briefly held up play, the sun came out and players and spectators enjoyed a bar-b-q outside the clubhouse.
Johnston Campbell representative Aidan Place enthused: “The standard of tennis throughout the week was first class as was the atmosphere and it was great to see two local winners for the first time after two exciting finals.”
Next up for Saturday’s history makers is the Racquet Lab Ulster Open which starts tonight at the Boat Club in Belfast with McKeown aiming to retain his title and McCullough bidding to lift the trophy for the first time.