SOUTH AFRICAN WHEELCHAIR TENNIS STARS THROUGH TO FINALS OF ACSA GAUTENG OPEN
South Africa's wheelchair tennis stars Lucas Sithole and Kgothatso Montjane are both through to their respective finals in the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open at the Gauteng East Tennis Centre. And both will face world number ones in Sunday's finals.
"I think it's huge for wheelchair tennis in South Africa for two South Africans to reach the finals. For both of us it's great because we've put a lot of work into this," said Montjane. But Sithole was hardly impressed with his 7-5 7-5 quads semi-final victory over Canadian Sarah Hunter, where he also had to overcome a faulty wheelchair. "This was my worst game ever. I really performed badly and I need to improve because I'm playing the world number one next," said Sithole. "My chair broke down on me in the second set. It broke down on the left hand side where I mostly balance so that means I couldn't chase too much and had to play the balls closest to me. But I got through it."
Sithole is up against world number one David Wagner in the quads final. The American played his best tennis of the week to overpower Britain's Jamie Burdekin 6-1 6-0.
"The conditions were a little bit weird. It was windy, which it hasn't been all week. That took some getting used to – the fast court, elevation and then wind. That combination of all three really means you have to be on top of your game," said Wagner.
Wagner took plenty of lessons from the last time he met Burdekin in the Cajun Classic final in March, which the Brit won.
"I knew playing against Jamie wasn't going to be easy. It's always a tough match with him. But I was able to talk to one of our United States Tennis Association (USTA) coaches the night before the match, and we spoke about a strategy for me. I had a different gameplan this time and fortunately it worked."
In the women's singles, South Africa's Montjane beat Britain's Lucy Shuker 7-5 6-1 to set up a final with world number one Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany. "I'm very happy because it wasn't easy," said Montjane. "The weather was tricky and I struggled to get into the game. I've played Sabine a few times and she's a tough opponent, but you never know what will happen on the day in a final."
Ellerbrock is struggling with an arm injury, which hampered her in her 7-5 6-2 semi-final victory over fellow German Katherina Kruger. "It's not an excuse and it's an old problem, but it was difficult for me to play some shots. I hope the physios can fix it because they are really good here," she said.
The men's singles final will see top seeded Frenchman Stephane Houdet up against Japan's Takashi Sanada. Houdet put to rest a previous defeat by Takuya Miki in January's semi-final of the Sydney International Open to beat the Japanese player 6-4 6-3. "I was thinking about our last match where I lost really badly to Miki, so I was focused on just taking it a game at a time," said the experienced Grand Slam champion. "I had a good strategy in the wind to keep the ball high. I was 3-1 down in the first set and then something broke in his chair. I fought back to 4-all and then it was a different Miki and it felt easier for me. You need to be smart with the wind."
In the other semi-final Sanada ended the dream run of determined Frenchman Nicolas Peifer, whom he beat 4-6 6-4 6-2. "Nicolas is a very strong player so I had to limit my mistakes. My confidence is also much better this year because I've made a change in racquet, wheelchair and my training and technique. So it's all helped to make me a better player," said Sanada.
The quads doubles final on Saturday saw Wagner and Hunter beat Greg Hasterok and Antony Cotterill 6-3 6-1.
Sunday's women's doubles final will see Ellberbrock and Shuker against Charlotte Famin and Kruger.
Play will start at 09h00 on Saturday 26 April and entrance is free.