Photo: Reg CaldecottKgothatso Montjane (RSA)
Shingo Kunieda, Kgothatso Montjane and David Wagner secured the perfect preparation for the upcoming South African Open by winning Sunday’s men’s, women’s and quad singles finals at the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open, part of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour.
Montjane, the South African world No. 7, secured the outstanding result of the day as she retained her women’s singles title with a first career win over Dutch top seed and world No. 3 Jiske Griffioen.
Going into Sunday’s match Montjane had not taken more than four games off Griffioen in any of their three previous matches, with Griffioen having won their last match at the London 2012 Paralympics 62 62.
However, Montjane gained an early break and although Griffioen fought back to level the
opening set at 3-3 the third seed would not be denied and won the last two games of the set. Thereafter, Montjane dropped just the fourth game in the second set to close out a 64 61 victory.
"I was very nervous because I had never beaten Jiske before and I was thinking that she
was one of the top players out there," said Montjane. "But my coach told me this morning to play my game and that’s what I did.
“I put pressure on her, she had problems with her serve, so I put pressure on the returns and on her forehand. When I took the first set that’s when I really had to hope I really could do it (win the match).
"This tournament has a lot of points and it’s going to push my ranking the right way and beating top players gives me a hope for 2016. I’m very confident for next week, I just have to pick up where I left off today. I’m just trying to make a comeback after some injuries, so I‘m just taking one step at a time.”
Kunieda survives scare to clinch men’s singles title
World No. 4 Gustavo Fernandez went into the men’s singles final against world No. 1 Kunieda having lost two of his previous three games to the Japanese top seed 60 60, while their only previous match this season in Sydney ended with Kunieda winning 63 61.
But the 18-year-old rising star dug deep to win the first three games of Sunday’s match, which all went to deuce, before Kunieda got himself on the scoreboard in another deuce game. Kuneida had to regain another break, winning the longest game of the set in the eighth, to level at 4-4, and went on to lead for the first time at 6-5 before Fernandez forced a tiebreak.
Kunieda dominated the tiebreak to lead 3-0, and then 5-1. En route to snatching the opening set his young Argentinean opponent’s only notable success in the second set was a break of serve in the fifth game as Kuneida went on to claim his first title in South Africa 76(2) 61, ending Fernandez’s bid for a third successive ITF 1 Series title.
Kunieda’s victory stretched his current unbeaten sequence to 40 singles matches since his last loss at Roland Garros last June.
“From 0-3 down it was tough, but I thought I could come back and I kept myself together mentally and took more risks,” said Kunieda.
”He was better than me at the start of the set, but I thought I could do it (come back to win) and I did. This is the first title for me in South Africa and I want to come back next year. I have some things after this week I have to change (going into the South African Open), but have to keep them secret.”
Wagner claims quad singles crown
The last day of play in Benoni opened with the quad single final between American world No. 1 David Wagner and Britain’s world No. 3 Andy Lapthorne.
Wagner had twice been taken to three sets by Lapthorne at the Australian Open and was expecting a tough match. But with Lapthorne having had to go to a deciding set in both his quarterfinal and semifinals and struggling to find his best form, he was unable to force a third set this time despite a close contest and Wagner went on to seal a 63 64 win.
“It’s an honour to win this trophy and great to be here in South Africa,” said Wagner. “I felt like I played well and had a lot of energy and was excited and happy for the match. I felt like I kept the pressure on him by bringing back a lot of balls that he was hitting and making him hit another ball every time I could. I think that helps a lot against a player like Andy.”
Wagner’s win came after he had been on the opposite side of the net and the opposite end of the result in Saturday’s quad doubles final, won by Lapthorne and South Africa’s Lucas Sithole.
Another Brit to share in a doubles title was Gordon Reid. Reid and Michael Jeremiasz of France justified top seeding in the men’s doubles final, beating second seeds Frederic Cattaneo of France and Fernandez.
Reid and Jeremiasz won four of the last five games in the opening set and then came from 2-0 down in the second set to complete a 63 75 victory.