Photo: Reg CaldecottKgothatso Montjane (RSA)
South African world No. 10 Kgothatso ‘KG’ Montjane survived a first-set scare to negotiate her way through to the women’s singles quarterfinals on Monday’s opening day of the SA Open, part of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, at the Ellis Park Tennis Stadium in Johannesburg.
Montjane faced a spirited challenge from compatriot and former world No. 1 ranked junior Mariska Venter, who pushed Montjane all the way to a first set tiebreak, but Montjane held her nerve to take the set and raced to 4-0 second set lead en route to wrapping up a 76(3) 62 victory.
“It wasn’t a good one for me. I don’t think I played my best tennis today. I battled a lot on court and made a lot of easy mistakes but the best players win, even on their toughest days,” said Montjane. “I realised in the first set, it wasn’t that I was playing badly but I was making the wrong decisions and I was playing loose balls. So in the second set I just had to settle down a bit and try and push myself. I just had to relax and play my game like I normally play.”
Montjane will now play Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany in the last eight of the second Super Series tournament of the year. Ellerbrock’s first competitive match since having her lower right leg amputated in planned surgery in early February ended in the fourth seed completing a 60 60 victory over Asive Gilifile.
Brit Lucy Shuker and Charlotte Famin of France also registered 60 60 first round wins against South African opponents, with Dutch third seed third seed Aniek van Koot beating South Africa’s Nonkanyiso Nyosi 61 61.
While Shuker goes on to play Dutch top seed Diede de Groot for a place in the semifinals Nokwanda Hlongwane defeated Lethabo Shai 61 60 in another all-South African women’s contest to book her place in the quarterfinals against second seed and 2013 SA Open champion Marjolein Buis.
No.1 ranking provides intriguing sub-plot for men’s top seeds
As the second Super Series event of 2017 got underway, Monday’s publication of the new weekly UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Rankings revealed a gap of just 99 points between men’s singles world No. 1 and defending champion Stephane Houdet and world No. 2 Joachim Gerard, with world No. 3 Gordon Reid just 194 points adrift of Houdet.
With all three players vying for men’s singles honours in Johannesburg, the competition for the world No. 1 ranking provides another fascinating sub-plot to the quest for the SA Open title after the points gained from the 2016 tournament came off the 52-week rollover ranking.
While the top seven men’s seeds had first round byes, eighth seed Yoshinobu Fujimoto defeated the host nation’s Thato Tsomole 61 60 and seven of the other eight matches were all-South African contests.
Those eighth matches included wins for two of the three players nominated to South Africa’s team for the junior event at May’s BNP Paribas World Team Cup.
Mpho Mhlongo edged Mayenzeke Gwija 64 76(3) to earn his first experience of playing top seed Houdet for a place in the men’s quarterfinals. Alwande Skhosana, among those playing in both junior and senior tournaments this week, had no trouble in sweeping aside Ewald Lamprecht 61 60 ahead of facing Fujimoto.
However, Ian Snyman, who will join forces with Mpho and Skhosana to represent South Africa in Sardinia next month, lost out to another of his compatriots, Ishmael Tshipuke. Tshipuke is now set to face seventh seed and South African No. 1 Evans Maripa.
There was also a comfortable first round win for South African No. 2 Leon Els, who defeated compatriot Similo Basi 60 61. Els plays third seed Reid, with Gift Lekhanyane to play second seed Gerard for a place in the quarterfinals.
Sithole tops quad singles seeding
With the SA Open seedings based on last week’s world rankings, the publication of this week’s world rankings brought good news for Israel’s Itay Erenlib, the second seed this week in Johannesburg.
Erenlib has moved up to a career-best world No.4 after jumping one place ahead of South Africa’s Lucas Sithole, who begins his home Super Series event as top seed.
With four South African players filling the top four places in the top half of the quad singles draw, Sithole is the understandable favourite to reach another SA Open final. Crowned champion for the most recent time in Johannesburg in 2015, Sithole begins his 2017 quest for the quad singles title against Michael Mahlanga, while Nkosanye Nkosi and Ronewa Mudzanani contest the other all-South African semifinal.
The host nation is represented in all four quarterfinals, with Erenlib facing Bongani Dlamini and Britain’s Antony Cotterill playing Danny Mohlamonyane for a place in the last four.