Photo: Reg CaldecottTom Egberink (NED)
Just two of the 16 men’s singles matches went to a third set on Tuesday’s first day of the Airports Company South Africa SA Open in Johannesburg, while Bonghani Dlamini also defeated fellow South African Steven Kekai in three sets in the first round of the quad singles as the second of the six Super Series tournaments on the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour got underway.
Canada’s Philippe Bedard will face French fourth seed Frederic Cattaneo in the second round of the men’s singles after overcoming Israel’s Asaaf Stokol 64 46 60, while Thomas Vinatier added to the French contingent who will vie for quarterfinal places after edging out Poland’s Piotr Jaroszewski 63 46 63.
It was a day of comfortable wins for the top seeds and Vinatier will next face British second seed and 2013 runner-up Gordon Reid, who beat South Africa’s No. 1 men’s singles player Evans Maripa 61 63. This week’s tournament was also going to be tough for Maripa as he returned to competition for the first time since his mother passed away last week and world No. 3 Reid proved to be a difficult first round opponent
“Personally it’s been tough. I lost my mom a week ago and I haven’t really trained very well. I arrived late yesterday and then tried to get some training in early before my first-round match, but I need time to get my rhythm going," explained Maripa.
“Evans can be a really dangerous player, so I’m happy to come out with that score and play a little bit better than I did last week. But I also realise it was difficult for Evans because he’s had a few personal issues in the last few days. It was always going to be tough for him to play,” said Reid.
Elsewhere, defending champion and top seed Stephane Houdet eased past fellow Frenchman David Dalmasso 61 60 and plays Morocco’s Lhaj Boukartacha for a place in the last eight.
“The conditions were tough because I didn’t expect the balls to fly that much. It was hard to control the ball at altitude, so my aim was to just keep the ball in court,” said Houdet. “I think you’ll see some tough matches because they may only come down to serve and return, and not many rallies because of the altitude.”
The second round will also feature South Africa’s former world No. 2 ranked junior Gift Lekhanyane, who upset experienced Austrian Wolfgang Stieg, a player ranked almost 200 places higher than the 19-year-old South African, 61 75
Dlamini battles into quad singles second round
Dlamini, South Africa’s No. 2 ranked quad singles player behind current world No. 2 Lucas Sithole, had to make a stirring recovery against Kekai to earn his place in the second round of the quad singles, but he ultimately prevailed 26 63 62. Kekai will now become the first opponent of the week for world No. 1 David Wagner when the quad singles seeds and women’s singles seeds begin their challenge on Wednesday’s second day of play.
Ludmila Bubnova of Russia, Pauline Helouin of France and South African trio Mabel Mankgele, Rose van der Meer and Mariska Venter all won through to meet seeded players after straight sets wins in the first round of the women’s singles.
Earlier in the day the second ACSA SA Open to have Super Series status on the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour got underway with an opening ceremony at Ellis Park Stadium attended by a number of diplomatic officials before the first balls were struck on the first morning of competition.
“We are delighted to welcome the world’s best players to South Africa for the second Airports Company South Africa SA Open, and for what we know is going to be another memorable tournament,” said Holgar Losch, Director of Wheelchair Tennis South Africa.
“We started this journey of supporting wheelchair tennis 10 years ago, when there were less than 10 players. Now we have almost 500 players in 50 centres around South Africa. As a sponsor this gives us a great sense of fulfilment," said Ndiphiwe Ntuli, Airports Company South Africa Senior Manager.
Mike Dunk, an executive member of the Gauteng Central Tennis Association,siad: “These courts have witnessed incredible moments in tennis going back to the 1920s. It’s an honour for us to now host the world’s best wheelchair tennis players."