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The heat builds up at the ACSA Pretoria Open semi-final​s

Semi-Finals Make for Great Wheelchair Tennis at the Pretoria Open

Tuesday, 05 July, 2011 The semi-finals of the Wheelchair Tennis South Africa’s (WTSA) Airports Company South Africa Pretoria Open saw Great Britain’s Kevin Simpson and Zimbabwean, Nyasha Mharakurwa, the only two international players left standing, cross racquets in what was a nail-biting match.

On the home front, South Africa’s Sydwell Mathonsi and Evans Maripa, ranked No.1 and 2 respectively, came up against one another to vie for the only spot left in the finals tomorrow (Thursday, 06 July) against the Brit. The four day tournament is host to five countries, including the Netherlands, Great Britain, Austria, Zimbabwe and South Africa; and of the 52 entered players, six are Pretoria residents. Amidst shows of guts, determination and courage from all the tournament hopefuls, the Rainbow Nation’s players are proving they have what it takes to ensure the tournament titles are kept on home soil. WTSA tournament director and coach, Holger Losch said, “The match between Mathonsi and Maripa was particularly unpredictable.

The last time the pair played against one another was at the Free State Open in December 2010, the younger player enjoyed a comfortable win over South Africa’s best and today saw a two in a row victory for the athlete,” said Losch. The match got off to an exciting start with Maripa showing off his great talent and settling into a rhythm early in the match, taking the first set 6-4. Mathonsi – the more experienced of the two – rose to the challenge in the second set and played on Maripa’s obvious nerves, winning 6-4. Maripa stayed in the game and despite being up 4-2, Mathonsi fought back to 4-4. It was then that Maripa displayed the strength and courage he is known for and won 6-4. “Maripa has progressed a lot as a player and is proving a cut above the rest. His only downfall is his nervousness which will improve after a few more big wins,” said Losch.

The match between Britain’s Simpson and the Zimbabwean saw a desperately disappointing outcome for Mharakurwa. The pair was evenly matched despite a gap in international rankings: Simpson, 42 and Mharakurwa, 93. Despite having lost it was a good result for Mharakurwa. Going down 4-6 in the first set he came back fighting hard. In the second set it was evident that every shot he played was laced with spirit and determination which clocked up a 7-6 win that had Simpson’s head reeling. The third set saw the Brit re-group playing a more aggressive game as a strategy to stay ahead, winning 6-2. “Mharakurwa’s disadvantage is his lack of international game play with Zimbabwe’s wheelchair tennis not yet developed as a sport. Mharakurwa is a solid player and has beaten players with higher rankings than his own but despite the tight game he failed to beat Simpson who is a regular on the international circuit,” said Losch.

In the women’s division the players gearing up for the finals are Pretoria resident’s Rose van der Meer and Celia du Toit after successive wins over younger players Mariska Venter (6-1 6-2) and Mabel Mankgele (6-2 6-2) respectively. “The battle is on for the players to determine who will take the second spot behind SA’s golden girl, Kgothatso Montjane who is absent from the tournament. Both had relatively easy rounds today but it is set to get a lot tougher as the big match looms tomorrow (7July).” In the finals of the quad’s division, Limpopo local, David Mathebula showed great strength and his polished performance earned him a win against Eastern Cape’s Ferdinand Gallant 6-2 6-2. “This is a stunning victory and the perfect confidence boost for Mathebula, what with this being the first time he has won the Pretoria Open title,” added Losch.

The tournament – a futures grade – is made possible by WTSA sponsor Airports Company South Africa, which has contributed no less than R14-million to the sport since 2005. The tournament is being held at the Rietondale Tennis Club, corner of Van der Merwe and Soutpansburg road, Rietondale, Pretoria. “The South African players deserve support; join us for some riveting tennis against some of the world’s best. Entrance is free and nothing makes for a more exciting day out! The games start at 9am and finish by 4pm. See you there,” concluded Losch.