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South Africa’s Evans Maripa believes all that stands between him and a top 10 world ranking is a good dose of self-confidence and being more “street smart”.

The world number 12 was frustrated by his first round loss to fourth seed Nicolas Peifer from France in the Mens Singles at the Airports Company South Africa SA Open on Tuesday, but turned animated when looking ahead to the rest of the season.

“I lost the match against Peifer because I beat myself; I was my own worst enemy out there,” the 23-year-old stated with brutal honesty after he lost 6-0 6-4 to the French world number six.

“Yes, it was a tough draw to face the fourth seed in the first round, but I love the challenge of drawing seeds, because it tests you and you learn from every match.

“I went in with a lot of confidence, but I was all over the place in the first set. I was over hitting every ball that came my way and got so flustered that I could not get onto scoreboard. I started the second set much the same, but I pulled myself together.

“I was 5-1 down, but I fought back to 5-4. I didn’t use the opportunity, though, to force the match into a third set. I only have myself to blame for the loss. If I can start matches the way I played in that second set, I will start beating the seeds.”

Maripa earned high praise from first seed Stephane Houdet from France when he forced Dutchman Maikel Scheffers into a third set during their second round clash at the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open last week.

“Evans is undoubtedly the strongest player on the Mens Singles circuit right now,” said Houdet, who is on track for a hat-trick of titles at Ellis park Tennis Stadium this week.

“I think it’s just a matter of time before he breaks into the top 10; he just needs a bit more experience against the top seeds to play a little smarter and he will knock down the door.”

And smarts are exactly what Maripa is hunting this year.

“I know I move really well and I have a lot more shots in my arsenal right now, but I just need to get smart about how I use my strengths,” Maripa said.

“I get into my own head and I make stupid mistakes. I need to learn how to overcome that. If I can get stronger mentally, I will start winning and break into the top 10.

“Experience gives you that confidence and those smarts. That’s why I like testing myself against these guys that have been inside the top 10 for years. I learned a lot from the match against Scheffers and again from playing Peifer, so it’s never a complete loss.”

Acting spokesperson for Airports Company South Africa Colin Naidoo said Maripa is undoubtedly a future star to watch.

“Evans has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years as a wheelchair tennis player and Airports Company South Africa is proud to have been part of his progress and success,” Naidoo said.

Maripa and Frenchman Frederick Cattaneo reached the quarter-finals of the Mens Doubles in the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open last week and the duo will combine once again in the pursuit of success this week.

“I will follow the Mens Singles action and try to learn as much as possible from the top seeds to try and improve our chances,” Maripa said. “It would be a fantastic way to finish two great weeks at home with a title.”