Game, set and match Ris­ing star beats all

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - MICHAEL THOMP­SON michael. thomp­son@ news. com. au

TOWNSVILLE’S Mikayla Zahi­rovic, 14, may have stamped her­self as the city’s next ris­ing ten­nis star.

Zahi­rovic won the 14 years and un­der women’s sin­gles ti­tle at the Rod Laver Queens­land Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships in Bris­bane, and now she is eye­ing off a na­tional ti­tle at De­cem­ber’s Aus­tralian Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships in Mel­bourne.

Zahi­rovic’s achieve­ment is made even more im­pres­sive given the fact she en­tered last week’s tour­na­ment as eighth seed.

The Kir­wan State High School stu­dent made her pres­ence known in the quar­ter­fi­nals when she beat No. 1 seed Maggie Pearce 6- 4, 6- 5, and then she over­came a tough semi- fi­nal against Natasha Lys­trup CamerPesci 0- 6, 6- 3, 6- 2.

Wait­ing for Zahi­rovic in the grand fi­nal was No. 2 seed Hana Son­ton, who en­tered the de­cider in equally good form, but Zahi­rovic was too strong, win­ning 6- 3, 6- 2.

“We’re over the moon,” Zahi­rovic’s mother Aida said.

“She’s been play­ing since she was five years old, and to fi­nally get the grand fi­nal win is a dream come true.

“She had a hard path to make the grand fi­nal but she was able to beat the top seed, and even though she had a set­back in the semi- fi­nal she didn’t let it shake her.”

Zahi­rovic has plenty of lo­cal in­spi­ra­tion, with for­mer Townsville ju­niors J. P. Smith and Lizette Cabr­era carv­ing out ca­reers on the in­ter­na­tional cir­cuit with ap­pear­ances at the Aus­tralian Open and Wim­ble­don, among other pres­ti­gious tour­na­ments.

Zahi­rovic trains out of Western Sub­urbs Ten­nis Club un­der the watch of Hawk- Eye Ten­nis coach Brad Clews.

Her train­ing sched­ule runs up to seven hours a week, usu­ally con­sist­ing of two in­di­vid­ual train­ing ses­sions, two squad ses­sions and two sets of fixtures.

“Mikayla was play­ing against kids who train up to 2- 3 hours a day, even dur­ing school hours,” Clews said.

“So for her to win that tour­na­ment was an out­stand­ing achieve­ment.

“She has a strong power game ... she was just hit­ting play­ers off the court.

“She’s only 14, but with her progress who knows how far she can go.

“All the young play­ers in the North Queens­land re­gion know Mikayla and she’s al­ready a role model, which is great for the sport.”

Zahi­rovic’s next tour­na­ment will be the Ing­ham Open in a fort­night.

POWER GAME: Townsville ten­nis ju­nior Mikayla Zahi­rovic won the un­der- 14 cham­pi­onships in Bris­bane. Pic­ture: FIONA HARD­ING

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