Photo: Reg CaldecottDiede de Groot (NED)
Stefan Olsson and Diede de Groot won the first Super Series singles titles of their careers on the last day of the 2017 SA Open, part of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, as Lucas Sithole regained the quad singles title to give the home fans plenty to celebrate in Johannesburg.
World No. 7 Olsson beat Rio Paralympic champion Gordon Reid for the first time since defeating the Brit in the 2016 SA Open quarterfinals, earning his first title at Ellis Park Tennis Stadium with a 64 62 victory.
“It’s wonderful, hard to describe at the moment – the feeling is overwhelming. I’m really happy that I have been able to play this well all week. I’m playing really solidly and I thought I did really well in making his best shots look like I could do it even better. Today my game plan was totally perfect,” said Olsson, after winning his second title in three successive finals since the birth of his first son in January.
“The confidence is so high – I can’t really believe it and I’m playing my best tennis ever at the moment. Hopefully I can keep it up.”
Olsson will now play the French Club Championships before heading to the BNP Paribas World Team Cup in Italy in the first week of May.
Reid still left Johannesburg with one title after partnering Alfie Hewett to go one better than they did in the 2016 men’s doubles final. On that occasion Hewett and Reid were runners-up to top seeds Stephane Houdet and Nico Peifer before finishing as silver medallists behind the French duo at the Rio Paralympics.
The reigning Wimbledon champions gained their latest victory over Houdet and Peifer 63 64. The two partnerships have now shared the first two men’s doubles Super Series finals of 2017 after Houdet and Peifer beat the British duo in Sydney in January.
De Groot emulates Buis with maiden SA Open title
De Groot’s victory in the all-Dutch women’s singles final saw her emulate her opponent Marjolein Buis, whose first Super Series title also came at the SA Open in 2013. World No. 3 de Groot defeated Buis, who tweaked a back muscle during the match, 61 60.
“This is my first Super Series title so that is a very good thing,” said de Groot afterwards. “I started a bit nervous – it’s a Super Series final so there are a lot of things going on in your head but I tried to stay focused and from 1-0 down I didn’t lose a game so that was great.”
Buis and de Groot then teamed up to win the women’s doubles title, beating Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany and Charlotte Famin of France 64 62 in the final. Ellerbrock and Famin’s route to the final included a straight sets semifinal win over second seeds Lucy Shuker and Kgothatso Montjane.
“You always want to end the tournament with another win of course so to win the doubles as well and finish with two titles is so good and makes me really happy to come back again,” added Buis.
Sithole regains quad singles title
Top seed Sithole, who began the tournament having slipped one place below Itay Erenlib in the world quad singles rankings, completed a 62 64 victory over the Israeli second seed in the final.
However, with the match having been held over from Thursday’s penultimate day of play, when Sithole had built a 6-2, 3-0 lead before the contest was rained off, Friday’s resumption brought a renewed challenge from Erenlib.
Erenlib fought his way back to level the second set at 3-3, but with Sithole’s focus on regaining the title he last won in 2015, the South African slowly took back control, winning the next two games and eventually the title.
“I’m very happy with the way I played from the first match to the last one,” said Sithole. “There were a lot of challenges in most of the matches but I’m glad I could overcome them and keep the trophy at home.
“Yesterday (Thursday) was good. I played my best tennis until the rain stopped us. Then this morning, Itay played very solidly. He kept hitting on the forehand side until he was 3-3. That’s when I needed to start playing my own game and once I did that, it was easy," added Sithole.
“It was important for me to win as I got a lot of rankings points and will maybe jump to No. 4 in the world next week, so it was a good opportunity for me, which I grabbed with both hands.
“This brings a lot of confidence because there’s still a long way to go in the season. I have the Japan Open and the Korea tour and France coming up, so winning today is going to give me that confidence going forward to the next tournaments. I just need to play my game and make sure I win the last point of the match.”
Like de Groot, Sithole also ended the tournament by adding doubles honours, after parntering Antony Cotterill to victory in the quad doubles final. The top seeds beat Bongani Dlamini and Eremlib 64 62.