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Sonay Kartal, Billy Harris and Greg Slade posing with their respective awards
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Kartal, Harris and Slade win first career singles titles

• 4 MINUTE READ

British players Sonay Kartal, Billy Harris and Greg Slade have all been celebrating after winning the first international singles titles of their professional careers in recent weeks.

The success of the trio follows on from recent first professional tour titles for Jack Pinnington-Jones and Giles Hussey, and further builds on what has been an impressive year for British players competing at all levels on the international tours.

While Emma Raducanu and Cameron Norrie may have dominated the tennis headlines in 2021, over 100 titles have now been won this year by British professional tennis players on the ATP Tour, WTA Tour, ITF World Tennis Tour and ITF UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis World Tour.

Second time lucky for Kartal

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Before this Autumn, Kartal had just two main draw match wins to her name on the ITF World Tennis Tour from her first foray on to the tour back in November 2019. Returning to international action for the first time since then, the 20-year-old put together a brilliant run of form in Turkey, winning eleven matches out of twelve across the two tournament weeks of the ITF W15 events in Antalya.

Having come through qualifying in to reach the main draw of the first tournament week, Brighton’s Kartal didn’t lose a set in reaching the final, knocking out the second seed 6-0, 6-4 in the quarter-finals and finishing runner-up to top seed Rosa Vicens Mas (Spain, world no.523).

Building on that, Kartal repeated the trick in the second tournament week, reaching the final without dropping a set and knocking out the no.2 seed in the quarter-finals with a 6-0, 6-0 win. However, this time she sealed her first international title of her career with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Hungary’s Amarissa Toth.

Reflecting on her first international title, Kartal said:

I’ve had a rough couple years with ongoing injuries and being forced to take time away from the game, so for me it made winning my first title a whole lot more meaningful. It felt like a long time coming!

Kartal, who was a regular opponent of Emma Raducanu’s in the junior ranks and holds a 6-5 winning record against the US Open Champion, has continued the good form she has shown on the domestic circuit after recovering from a long-term wrist injury, with a hat-trick of wins on the UK Pro League over the summer adding to her two titles on the LTA British Tour last year.

Harris hits form

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Isle of Man’s Billy Harris had a sensational October on the ITF World Tennis Tour, winning not just the first international singles title of his career, but winning a second and finishing as runner up in another, as well as claiming a doubles title too.

Harris claimed his first international singles title in Sozopol, Bulgaria at the start of October, only dropping one set in reaching the final with a run that included an impressive 6-4, 6-2 win over Bulgaria’s world no.460 Alexandar Lazarov in the quarter-finals. Facing Germany’s Kai Wehnelt in the final, Harris prevailed 6-4, 6-1 to lift the trophy – as well as claiming the doubles title alongside Alexander Donski of Bulgaria.

The 26-year-old Manx player then finished runner-up at the second tournament week in Sozopol, before travelling to Antalya in Turkey where he claimed the second international singles title of his career with a 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 hard fought win in the final against fellow Brit Felix Gill.

The wins move Harris up to a career high of 578 in the ATP world rankings, a rise of over 200 places over the last year. Speaking about winning his first career titles, Harris said:

It’s nice to have finally won a singles title after so many years trying. I’m feeling in good form now to finish the year strong

Slade shines in south of France

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Dorking’s Greg Slade won not just his first international title in the quad singles at BNP Paribas International Paratennis Toulouse Balma in France at the weekend, but he also claimed his first doubles title – both without dropping a set.

Having beaten France’s Sophie Fraioli in the semi-final of the singles, Slade saw of the challenge of world no.60 Thomas Huguenin with an impressive 6-0, 6-2 win in the final. For the doubles, Slade partnered with Sweden’s Petter Edstrom as they beat French pair Huguenin and Pierlin Angeli 6-2, 6-1 to claim the trophy.

Slade, who at 19-years-old has now risen to a career high of 30 in the quad singles world rankings and 29 in doubles, has been supported as part of the LTA’s Wheelchair National Age Group Programme, with a wide-ranging package of support designed to help high potential wheelchair players progress towards future international success.

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