SOUTH AFRICAN STARS ON TRACK IN ACSA GAUTENG OPEN
South Africa's Lucas Sithole and Kgothatso Montjane led the charge of the top seeds into their respective semi-finals and quarterfinals of the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open on Thursday.
Second seed and South African quads favourite Sithole set up a semi-final clash with Canadian fourth seed Sarah Hunter after beating Queen Nlapo 6-0 6-0 at the Gauteng East Tennis Centre.
Canadian Hunter overcame a shock 5-7 first set loss against American Mark McLean to eventually win 6-3 6-0.
"Sarah is a good player with a lot of experience. She'll give me a tough test, which is what I want for this tournament to get me ready for next week's Airports Company South Africa SA Open," said Sithole.
"But I'm happy with how I've come through these two matches and retained my focus and concentration in them. I think I'm building well for next week. By the end of this week I want all my weapons in one bag so I'm ready for the war next week," he said.
At the top end of the quads draw, top seed and world number one David Wagner continued to work off the jetlag with a 6-0 6-0 victory over Britain's Antony Cotterill to also progress.
"I still feel a bit tired from the flight over but it was a good second round for me. Antony is a good player so I knew I had to play my best tennis against him. You've just got to do your best on the day and leave it out there. That's my focus with each match."
Wagner next comes up against his first major challenge of the tournament in Britain's Jamie Burdekin, who beat him in the final of the Cajun Classic last month.
In the women's singles, South African second seed Montjane played her first match of the week on Thursday, and moved straight into the quarterfinals with a 6-0 6-1 victory over Siphokazi Fuma.
"It wasn't a tough match but I took a lot out of it in terms of what I want to still work on. And I know I've got some tough matches coming up. I've got a lot of points to defend these next two weeks for my world ranking, which puts the pressure on me, so I'm just focused on doing the best I can," she said.
Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany emerged from her "green island" of the tennis court as calm and composed as you would expect from the world number one singles star.
After a first-round bye, the top-seeded German secured her place in the quarterfinals with a 6-1- 6-1 victory over South Africa's Rosalea van der Meer.
"It was a good start, but there's always something to work on," said the reigning Australian Open champion.
The most immediate concern for Ellerbrock was getting used to the altitude, and an outdoor environment for someone who plays most of her tennis indoors in Germany.
"It's tough to get the rhythm here because the courts are fast at altitude. I was an able-bodied player before, so my mobility on court is something I'm always very aware of," she said.
Ellerbrock's serve also took some time to warm up. But overall there wasn't too much to trouble her.
"I know there is always pressure if you are the first seed, but I try not to focus too much on that pressure. I enjoy myself on court. I call it my green island and I make sure I enjoy every second of it while I'm out there."
Men' singles top seed Stephane Houdet of France beat Poland's Kamil Fabisiak 6-0 6-0 to also make the quarters. "It was another good match for me. My opponent has improved a lot since we last faced each other and I needed my best game out there. I had to be focused on every point."
Houdet faces sixth seed Tom Egberink of The Netherlands in the quarters. "Tom is a good player with a very good serve, so that will be a tough match," said the Frenchman.
Men's singles second seed Gordon Reid and third seed Takuya Miki also both progressed.
Play will start at 09h00 on Friday 25 April and entrance is free.