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Japan, USA have a championship look about them

Japan and USA were the stand-out performers on Tuesday at the 2011 ITF Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup in Pretoria.

The No 1 seeds Japan and second-seeded Germany are the leading Men’s World Group 2 teams and both are on a mission to gain promotion to the elite Men’s World Group 1 next year.

Japan produced a clean slate with a 3-0 win over Asian neighbours Malaysia and America produced the same result against Italy.

All the leading sides in the Men’s World Group 1 section will be in action today after their rest day on Tuesday.

In the Women’s World Group, the eighth-seeded Spain and unseeded Switzerland wrapped up their matches on a victorious note, after bad light curtailed play on Monday.

The Spanish women beat Russia 2-1 and the Swiss scored an upset 2-1 win over the sixth seeds Belgium.

South Africa handed Greece a 3-0 whitewash in their Men’s World Group 2 clash.

It was an emphatic display over the more experienced Greece side who were among the stand-out performers three years ago when the showpiece was held in Italy.

The SA-Greece tie started out under cloudy skies but it turned out to be a great stage for Evans Maripa’s star to shine brightly as he lead the charge for the host nation.

Evans needed just 50 minutes to dispose of his Greek counterpart Aristomenis Nikolopoulos 6-0 6-1.

Greece’s Georgios Lazaridis was next in the firing line as South Africa’s No 2 Sydwell Mathonsi took aim in the next match.

Mathonsi traded heavily on a big serve which had Lazaridis under pressure from the start but as the match wound its course there was never any doubt who the eventual winner would be. Mathonsi too ended the match after 50 minutes with a 6-3 6-0 scoreline.

After a short break he returned to the fray to partner Marshall Marsh to roll over the Greek doubles pairing of Nikolopoulos and Lazaridis 6-0 6-1. The 3-0 tie win ended with a hefty 87.8% overall games won. Mathonsi, who on the winning side twice against Greece, was literally up in the clouds with South Africa’s performance.

“It was a wonderful team effort and a really first-class performance,” said Mathonsi. “I tried to stay with game plan and tried to work hard right to the end. This performance will give us great confidence for our next matches.

“In the doubles we had to be patient and I could not use my big serve there.

“It was just a matter of being patient and keep getting the ball over the net.”

South Africa’s quads team were at the receiving end of a 3-0 hiding at the hands of Canada in their Group B encounter.

Lucas Sithole was first up against the Canadians and his opponent Sarah Hunter produced a measured performance as she wrapped up a 6-0 6-0 result.

Steven Kekai offered a greater measure of South African resistance but he too came unstuck against Canada’s Adrian Dieleman who clinched the match 6-0 6-1.

After their convincing singles display, the Canadians Dieleman and Gary Luker put in a workmanlike performance against Sithole and Kekai on their way to a 6-4 6-2 win to crown their 3-0 tie conquest over the tournament hosts.

Classy Jon Rydberg laid down the championship marker in the Men’s World Group 2 competition when the US side made it’s bow at the 2011 ITF Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup on Tuesday.

Rydberg and his teammates had a vacation day on Monday but when they swung into action Morocco bore the full brunt of the US challenge, which is on a mission to win promotion to the elite Men’s World Group 1.

The Morocco No 1 Mohamed Bakhtali was blown away in a matter of 36 minutes as Rydberg swept to a 6-0 6-0 win.

“It was just a smooth, solid performance and I was not trying to do too much,” said Rydberg afterwards. “It was a good chance to work on net play and when I had a chance I gave it stick.”

Rydberg’s cavalier approach made for a treat as his supporting US team mates lapped up his show of power tennis, laced with bouts of serve and volley.

Steve Welch was next up to continue the rout and Morocco’s Boukartacha Haj wilted under his 6-0 6-2 onslaught 53 minutes later.

Paul Moran stepped into the fray along with Rydberg to round off the 3-0 tie drubbing with a 6-0 6-2 triumph over Haj and Ayoub Ettali.

The impressive US quads side were made to work hard against Italy in their Group A clash, but they prevailed 3-0 in the end.

First up, Nick Taylor overcame an indifferent start and ground out a workmanlike performance for his 7-6(4) 7-5 win over Italy’s Antonio Raffaele.

David Wagner didn’t have it all his own way initially against Marco Innocenti but once he pocketed the first set 7-6 with a 7-4 tiebreak scoreline he wrapped up the second set fairly comfortably for an eventual 7-6(4) 6-1 win over the Italian.

Taylor was up for the kill in his power chair later again when he was joined by Bryan Barten for the doubles showdown against Innocenti and Giuseppe Polidori.

After a first-set breeze the Americans duo were stretched to the limits but they seemed to feed off the courtside support as they ran out 6-1 7-5 winners.

Wagner said afterwards the US team were mentally attuned for the week-long event and were wary of under-estimating opponents.

“Wheelchair tennis has shown that anyone can beat anyone on any given day,” said Wagner. “Our team seem to have benefited from the play at Sun City last week, and I for one, have not been affected by the high altitude.

“At a tournament such as this there can be many distractions so one can expect some testing times when you need to stay focused.”

Near the end of day, the US juniors ran into the Spanish Armada and were at the end of a 3-0 defeat in their Group A clash.

Spain’s juniors won the championship last year and their experience was in always in evidence as first Roberto Chamizo defeated Ryan Nelson 6-1 6-1 and then Daniel Caverzachi triumphed against rookie Shelby Baron 6-2 6-2.

The Spanish duo of Chamizo and Caverzachi rounded off with a 6-0 6-3 win as the US pairing Nelson and Baron went down fighting to the end.

Published by The BLD Group