St Leonards ace stars in Turkey

Suzy Larkin reached the final of a professional tournament in Turkey
Suzy Larkin reached the final of a professional tournament in Turkey
  • Suzy Larkin reaches final of professional tennis event in Turkey
  • St Leonards player returning to competition after long absence
  • 24-year-old beats players from Ukraine, Germany, Israel and France
  • Larkin set to rise into Britain’s top 25 and world’s top 950

A tennis talent from St Leonards was the runner-up at a professional competition in Turkey.

Suzy Larkin reached the final of the women’s singles at an ITF $10,000 tournament on the hard courts of Antalya, beating players from four countries along the way.

The 24-year-old is expected to move into Britain’s top 25 and the world’s top 950 when the next ranking list is issued at the start of next week.

Larkin began her excellent run with a 7-6, 1-0 retired first round victory over 24-year-old Alyona Sotnikova (Ukraine), the fourth seed and world number 492.

She then eased past German player Ina Kaufinger 6-1, 6-2 in the second round before edging out Vlada Ekshibarov (Israel) 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in the quarter-finals.

Larkin then pulled off a splendid 6-4, 6-2 semi-final win against 21-year-old French lady Caroline Romeo, the second seed and world number 407.

She wasn’t quite able to clinch the title, however, as she was narrowly beaten 4-6, 6-7 (5-7) in the final by 26-year-old Slovakian player Zuzana Zlochova, the sixth seed and world number 477.

Larkin’s success in Turkey has come despite not playing competitive tennis since her junior days, a period of some nine years.

After spending two years at the Equalite Tennis Academy in Spain at the start of her teenage years, she decided to return home to complete her education (there was none at the tennis academy).

Having condensed her GCSEs into a single year at Helenswood Academy, Larkin achieved her A Levels at Buckswood School and went on to gain a 2:1 degree in mathematics at Oxford Brookes University in 2015.

During her three years at university, however, she suffered a serious foot injury which prevented her from playing any competitive sport for some 18 months.

On her return home to St Leonards, Larkin joined The Green LTC earlier this year and was encouraged by the members, who recognised her potential, to enter a professional tournament.

After her aunt Frances Candy - a multiple national age group champion and a key figure in the Great Britain over-60 women’s team which won gold at the 2014 Super-Seniors World Team Championships - persuaded her to watch the Eddie the Eagle movie, she was inspired to give it a try and for the last two months has been playing on the ITF women’s tour in Turkey.

Having started as an unknown newcomer, against seasoned professionals, Larkin has gradually been achieving more success, winning qualifying matches, then main draw matches, then reaching a few quarter-finals.

She appears to be the only player on the tour not accompanied by a coach and hitting partner. Perhaps this is what makes her more determined.

Larkin is a coach at The Green LTC and Rye LTC. Both clubs have been very supportive and she has also received help from Amherst LTC coach Doug Keen, with advice and hitting practice.

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