Photo: Reg CaldecottDavid Wagner (USA)
The men’s singles and quad singles top seeds all made comfortable progress on Wednesday’s first day of the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open, with all eight quarterfinalists decided in the quad singles at the latest ITF 1 Series event on the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour at Gauteng East Tennis Centre.
While the women’s seeds all had first round byes, such was the ease of the wins for the top two seeds in the men’s and quad events they only dropped one game between the four of them.
On a cool day in Benoni, world No. 1 and defending quad singles champion David Wagner hardly broke a sweat as he the American top seed beat Sweden’s Petter Edstrom 60 60.
Wagner arrived in South Africa on the back of victories in three of his last four tournaments, including the Australian Open.
“I felt good out there and I’m looking forward to moving on in the tournament,” said Wagner. “It’s always hard to get that first one under your belt. You always want to play well, and I felt I did that. But the great thing about tennis is that I feel like I can still improve. There are some things I still need to work on in my game. But it’s early in the tournament so hopefully they’ll come around.”
“I’m feeling good and I’m playing good tennis. I feel ready to compete at the highest level that I can, and that’s all I hope for every time I step onto the court.”
South African world No. 2 Lucas Sithole, arguably Wagner’s biggest challenger, also enjoyed a good start when he also beat countryman Steven Kekae 60 60.
“It was a good start. I just need to work on keeping my focus. When you play a match like that you need to stay focused out there and keep doing your job. There is still a lot of tennis to come so I need to be sharp and prepared for it,” he said.
Sithole will face compatriot Queen Nlapo for a place in the semifinals, where the victor will play the winner of the quarterfinals between Canadian fourth seed Sarah Hunter and American Marc McLean. Both Hunter and McLean wrapped up 62 61 wins in their opening matches.
There will be two Anglo-American quarterfinals between four world top 10 ranked players in the top half of the draw, with Wagner facing Britain’s world No. 7 Antony Cotterill and third seed and world No. 5 Jamie Burdekin taking on American world No. 9 Greg Hasterok.
Els to face Miki in men’s second round
In the men’s singles, Leon Els, the highest ranked South African in the draw, took only 44 minutes to beat Simbongile Gobongo 60 60.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start. It was nice and relaxed and I could focus on the things I wanted to achieve,” he said.
Els is looking forward to a big performance this week and in next week’s Airports Company South Africa SA Open.
“These are two big events for me. I’ve trained for six days a week and two to four hours a day for this so I’m feeling as prepared as I can be.”
But he’ll need to put Wednesday’s match behind him as quickly as possible, as on Thursday he faces third seed and world No. 8 Takuya Miki of Japan.
“The draw this week wasn’t too kind to me. There’s no real expectation on me in that match, so in that sense all the pressure is on him, which is something I have on my side. So I’m just going to go for it.”
French world No. 2 Stephane Houdet, the top seed in the men’s singles , eased into the second round with a 61 60 victory over South African Similo Basi, while second seed Gordon Reid of Britain beat South Africa’s Frank Ramokoatsi 60 60.
Reid’s victory came in one of seven first round men’s singles matches to end 60 60, while the only three set contest ended in Patrick Selepe defeating fellow South African Thato Tsomole 64 76(6) 63. The closest of the remaining matches saw Poland’s Kamil Fabisiak beat Canada’s Philippe Bedard 63 76(4) to earn a second round match-up with Houdet.
Of the three matches completed in the women’s singles, South Africa’s Rose van der Meer edged out her countrywoman Mabel Mankgele 46 62 75. Mankgele will now become the first opponent of the week for Germany’s world No. 1 Sabine Ellerbrock.