WORTHING-based 16-year-old Lauren Jones received a big boost to her burgeoning wheelchair tennis career at the weekend when she clinched her first international senior title at the Esporta Cardiff Wheelchair Tennis Tournament and reached her first main draw singles final at a world ranking event.
Jones arrived at the Welsh National Tennis Centre having already won the women’s doubles title at the 2011 National Championships in May, partnering current British No 2 Jordanne Whiley. But, success in Britain’s penultimate world ranking tournament of the season came with British No 3, Louise Hunt, who was quick to applaud the Worthing Sixth Form College student after they eased to victory in Cardiff .
The duo dropped just one game in their semi-final against Britain’s Emma Aldred-Tow and Brazil’s Samanta Almeida-Bullock and went on to beat fellow Britons Debbie Brazier and Laura Coteman 6-1, 6-1 in the final.
Jones also produced a strong display in the women’s singles, holding her nerve to come back from the verge of defeat and beat second seed Debbie Brazier 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 in the quarter-finals.
The former Durrington High School pupil then beat fourth seed Laura Coteman 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 in the semi-finals, before succumbing to world No 19 Hunt 2-6, 1-6 in the final.
Jones, who first played wheelchair tennis towards the end of 2009, after injuring her spine in a fall from a tree a few months earlier, said: “It’s been a great weekend, I’ve really enjoyed it and to win my first international title at senior level is very exciting.
“I had some close singles matches, but I’m very happy that I pulled through to reach the final and it’s great experience to play with players like Louise and Jordanne. Both have been really good to partner, so I’ve been very lucky this year and want to build on this now.”
Jones is one of a group of young British players to benefit from support from the Tennis Foundation and SportsAid.
She has gained her highest senior singles ranking of 112 and her highest senior doubles ranking of 105 in this week’s world rankings, published by the International Tennis Federation, as well as jumping one place in the International Junior Rankings to No 7 following her success in Cardiff .
However, she has had little time to rest on her laurels as within 24 hours of her success in Cardiff, Jones joined Hunt on a plane to Crete, where they are both contesting this week’s Sitia Open.