Photo: Reg CaldecottGordon Reid (GBR)
Gordon Reid and Stefan Olsson will meet in Friday’s men’s singles final at the SA Open, part of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, which means that for the first time in five years the roll of honour at the second Super Series event of the season will not feature a French men’s champion.
Meanwhile, with rain bringing a premature end to the penultimate day of play at Ellis Park Tennis Stadium in Johannesburg, home favourite Lucas Sithole goes into the last day of scheduled competition needing just three games to clinch the quad singles title.
After beating 2015 champion and 2016 runner-up Nicolas Peifer in the quarterfinals, world No. 7 Olsson ended the French challenge with a 63 63 victory over world No. 1 Stephane Houdet.
Houdet struggled with his serve and was unable to tame Olsson’s powerful forehand and revamped topspin backhand as his bid to add to his previous Super Series titles in Johannesburg in 2013, 2014 and again last year came to an end.
“I had to take a few more chances than I usually do but it worked really well today,” said Olsson, after reaching his third successive UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour singles final since the birth of his first son in January. “It’s mostly the forehand that works perfectly against Stephane, when I can get the short angles against him and make him push even more. That’s where the momentum was today.
“I’ve improved a lot on my topspin backhand. It’s much more solid. I can hit it a lot harder and I know where it’s going now, so I’m playing much better tennis than I’ve ever done, but I know I have more steps to go as well,” added Olsson. “The first set, he wasn’t playing very well. I’ve never seen him doing three double faults in one game so I’m happy with that – I’ll take that for sure.”
As for taking on Reid in Friday’s final, Olsson added: “It’s going to be a tough match. I have played lots of matches before against Gordon and he has won a lot against me. The only thing I know is that I won against him here last year in the quarters so I’m looking forward to a good game and we’ll see what happens.”
Olsson’s victory over Reid in Johannesburg 12 months ago was his last over the Rio Paralympic champion. Reid has was won their last three meetings, including last July’s Wimbledon final, and if the Briton can extend his winning sequence against Olsson to four matches he will earn enough ranking points to replace Houdet at the top of the world rankings.
Currently world ranked No.3, Reid booked his spot in the decider by defeating Belgian second seed Joachim Gerard.
After recovering from 3-1 down in the first set, Reid wrapped up the the set before rain resulted in the players coming off court during the first game of the second set. However, the delay did little to halt Reid’s momentum and he completed a dominant 63 60 victory to earn the chance to improve on his runners-up placings to Houdet in 2013 and 2014.
“I had a slow start, just missing a few too many balls and Jo was serving very well at the start but I then started putting a bit more pressure on him with my returns and I served quite well too which put even more pressure on him,” said Reid.
“It feels really good. I’ve been in the final here a couple of times before but never won the title so I’m looking forward to the match tomorrow and will hopefully get my first championship here.
I’ve got a pretty good record recently against Olsson. He’s playing really well at the moment, though, and he’s been in good form this year so he’s going to be tough to beat. I think it will be a quality match and I’m looking forward to it,” added Reid.
Top seed Sithole was 6-2, 3-0 up in the already rain-delayed quad singles final against Israel’s Itay Erenlib when the heavens opened once again and play was called off. Having controlled the match thus far, Sithole will now aim to complete the task of regaining the title he last won in 2015.
One of the two men’s doubles semifinals also got underway before the premature end to the day’s play. Rio silver medallists Alfie Hewett and Reid lead South African duo Evans Maripa and Alwande Skhosana 3-0, with the match to be completed and the other semifinal to be played in its entirety on Friday before the final can be played.
Play on the final day will begin at 8am to accommodate the delayed quad singles final. First up will be the men’s final between Olsson and Reid followed by the all-Dutch women’s final between Marjolein Buis and Diede de Groot. Sithole and Erenlib will then complete the quad singles final, with the doubles events also to be completed.