SITHOLE PRIMED FOR PAYBACK AT GAUTENG OPEN
World number two David Wagner is the odds-on favourite in the Gauteng Open quads singles semi-final clash against South African tennis ace Lucas Sithole and the statistics definitely favour the three-time defending champion at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni on Saturday.
In 28 head-to-head contests, the American has taken a staggering 20 victories, including five wins from seven tussles last year.
But wheelchair tennis is played on court, not on paper.
Wagner may have beaten the KwaZulu-Natal player in the Level 1 International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament in the past two years, but Sithole came up trumps the last time the pair faced off in the SA Open at Ellis Park Tennis Stadium last year.
The semi-final clash was inevitable after both players were seeded on the same side of the draw and Sithole used the first two rounds of the Gauteng Open to put the final touches on his preparation for the upcoming battle.
He tackled Bryan Barten with vigorous energy and took a clean sweep in the first set, but was left wanting when the American retired early in the second set.
“It was a pity that Bryan retired in the second round, but the match was just long enough for me to get my pace and rhythm going very nicely,” said the 29-year-old KwaZulu-Natal native.
“I was 3-0 up when he called it a day and it was nice to play him, because he and David have similar games. So I was glad to play Takahiro Koga from Japan in the quarter-finals. He also has a similar game as David. They all come forward a lot, they don’t like to move too much on the back line and they like to force you to go for the big shots.”
After taking Koga in straight sets 6-1 6-0, Sithole is ready to take the fight to Wagner.
“It will be another hard fight,” he said. “It’s always a battle of wills with David and me, because we play each other all the time and we know the other’s weakness and strengths.
“You have to be on your toes against him. He is very experienced and very tactical. It always comes down to who takes control early on and who can profit from mistakes.”
Fourth-seed Ymanitu Silva defeated Australian Heath Davidson 6-3 6-3 in the quarter-finals.
The Brazilian will have an equally tough match on his hands when he goes head-to-head with world number one Dylan Alcott, who is still riding a wave of confidence after his successful title defence at the Australian Open in January.
The Australian is determined to make his mark in the two UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour events, sponsored by the Airports Company South Africa, in his first appearance in South Africa.
“I usually compete in the USA, but I opted to come to South Africa this year,” said Alcott after a clean sweep against South Africa’s Queen Nhlapo in their quarter-final match.
“The conditions are challenging, but it’s really great to get experience at altitude. Hopefully I can make the most of this week in Benoni and build up some confidence ahead of the SA Open.”
QUADS SINGLES QUARTER-FINAL RESULTS:
RSA unless stated
1-Dylan Alcott (AUS) bt Queen Nlapo 6-0 6-0
2-David Wagner (USA) bt Greg Hasterok (USA) 6-2 6-4
3-Lucas Sithole bt Takahiro Koga (JPN) 6-1 6-0
4-Ymanitu Silva (BRA) bt Heath Davidson (AUS) 6-3 6-3
Wheelchair Tennis South Africa and Airports Company South Africa Partnership:
The Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) is the official sponsor of Wheelchair Tennis South Africa and the sport of wheelchair tennis. Airports Company South Africa has contributed no less than R36-million to date and has committed to a continued investment in the sport as its flagship Corporate Social Investment programme.