03 May 2014

Houdet, van Koot and Wagner win SA Open titles

Match Report

Aniek van Koot (NED)

Stephane Houdet, Aniek van Koot and David Wagner clinched the men’s, women’s and quad singles titles on Saturday at the second Super Series event on the 2014 ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour as the Airports Company South Africa SA Open drew to a close at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg.

Van Koot beat Germany’s world No. 1 Sabine Ellerbrock for the second time this season in the only one of Saturday’s title deciders to go to three sets, the current Dutch world No. 4 and 2013 ITF World Champion prevailing 64 46 64 in the women’s final.

Van Koot secured the crucial service hold in the very last game of the opening set, but an immediate service hold and break at the start of the second set was enough to give top seed Ellerbrock the cushion she needed to be able to go on and level the match.

However, second seed van Koot clinched the last three games of the final set to win her third title from four tournaments this season.

"This is quite special. I didn't expect this. I was playing such bad tennis at the beginning of the week that I thought I'd be out by the semis and go to the lion park on the weekend. I'm very happy,” said van Koot.

Wagner beats Sithole to lift quad title

A year on from his first ever career loss to Sithole in the quad singles semifinals in Johannesburg, world No. 1 Wagner dominated the opening set of Saturday’s final, with breaks in the first and fifth games of the match giving him the initiative as Sithole’s two games both came from service holds.

Sithole’s only break of the match game in the eight game in the second set after Wagner had built a 5-2 lead and the top seed went on to wrap up a 62 63 victory to extend his winning sequence against Sithole this season to four matches. Two of those wins came at the Australian Open in January, with Wagner earning his second victory over Sithole in South Africa in successive weeks when winning the Gauteng Open.

“I knew Lucas would have a lot of support out there, and it’s phenomenal to see that kind of support in wheelchair tennis. It’s good that they could see him playing at his best at home,” said Wagner. ”But for me, this is great because I lost in the semifinals here last year to Lucas I know Lucas will never give up in a match so I can’t let down my guard.

“I love the sport and I love what’s going on in the sport, and in countries like South Africa. I love that I get to be a small part of that and to inspire people. As long as I feel competitive and I’m enjoying it, I’ll continue to play.”

Wagner’s now won 12 of their 16 career heads-to-head, Sithole’s only four wins over the American coming in 2013, when the South African world No. 2 was the only player to beat Wagner during an otherwise unbeaten season.

"David played very smart tennis. I knew he was going to go all out and I gave it my best, but it didn’t work out,” said Sithole. “It’s not great losing at home because this is our biggest tournament. But I’m happy for the organisers and sponsors because this is a great event. To get the top players here motivates our young players.”

Houdet retains men’s singles title in rematch with Reid

In a rematch of last year’s final in Johannesburg Houdet faced world No. 3 ranked Brit Gordon Reid, who won his maiden Super Series singles title at the Sydney International Open in January.

However, Reid’s bid for back-to-back Super Series crowns ended as Houdet made the most of his chances to earn a 63 63 victory.

Houdet earned the first break of the final to lead 3-2 and then took the final two games of the opening set before building a 4-1 second set lead. Reid gained his one and only break of the Frenchman’s serve in the 13th game, but Houdet broke straight back to retain his title.

“I played smart. I won almost all of the break points and just lost my serve once. I gave him tough balls to play. The level of the game could’ve been better. The altitude is tough when it comes to controlling the ball, and I think we both made too many mistakes,” said Houdet.

“The way to win is to enjoy what you do. It’s not only about tennis. It’s a game, so you need to enjoy it. I’m getting older so I need to take these titles now. I will be back to defend. It’s very close between me and Shingo Kunieda (world No. 1) now. With the game I’m playing now, I want to play against Shingo very soon. I love the challenge of playing him."

“I’m very disappointed, more with the standard of the tennis and not just the result,” said Reid. “I had my chances but if you don’t take them against a player like Stephane you’re going to get punished, and that’s what happened. This whole trip I just don’t feel like I’ve been flowing on court. It just wasn’t coming.”