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GERARD KEEPS GAUTENG OPEN TITLE HUNT ON TRACK

World number four Joachim Gerard beat Daniel Rodrigues in the Gauteng Open men’s singles quarter-finals to strengthen his bid for back-to-back victories, but the big-hitting Belgian will have to eliminate world number one Stephane Houdet in Saturday’s semi-finals to have another shot at success at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni on Sunday.

Houdet was in commanding form as he disposed of sixth seed Adam Kellerman from Australia in straight sets 6-3 6-1, while Gerard achieved the same result against Rodrigues from Brazil to reach the last four.

Houdet has made no secret of his desire to add the Level 1 International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament to his pair of SA Open titles and the match promises to be one of the toughest in this year’s tournament.

The Frenchman has dropped just eight games to date. By comparison, Gerard surrendered five in his first round clash against Australian Ben Weeks.

Although he whipped South Africa’s Leon Els 6-1 6-0, he had a tough time getting past the unseeded Rodrigues, who toppled seventh seed Takuya Miki in round two.

Gusting wind on Friday amplified to the already tough conditions at altitude for the foreigners, but Gerard was upbeat about his chances to replicate last year’s success after his round.

“Sure it’s tough to play at altitude when you are not used to it, but you do adjust after a few days,” he said. “You start taking advantage of the hard balls and the added flight, but today the wind was swirling a lot. It made it tough to judge the strength of your services, especially on the side where you are serving into the sun.

“I did a lot better with the wind in the second set. David has a powerful forearm and he moves quickly, so that was good practice for the semi-final against Stephane. It’s going to be a ding-dong battle, that’s for sure.”

Reigning SA Open champion Nicholas Peifer has had less court-time than the rest of the semi-finalists after his second round opponent failed to show, but the reigning NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters champion showed no signs of rust as he powered to a 6-4 6-4 victory over fifth seed Takashi Sanada from Japan.

The German world number three will face 19-year-old giant-killer Alfie Hewitt from Great Britain in the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour event, sponsored by the Airports Company South Africa.

Hewitt set off the fireworks when he sent fourth seed Stefan Olsson from Sweden packing in round two on Thursday and claimed another huge scalp when he defeated eight seed Frederic Cattaneo from France 6-4 6-4 to reach the semis.

The pair have met only four times.

Peifer won their first clash in 2013, the unseeded Hewitt took the second head-to-head in 2014 and the German was victorious in two quarter-finals in France and Belgium last year.

MEN’S SINGLES QUARTER-FINAL RESULTS:

1-Stephane Houdet (FRA) bt 6-Adam Kellerman (AUS) 6-3 6-1

2-Nicolas Piefer (FRA) bt 5-Takashi Sanada 6-4 6-4

3-Joachim Gerard (BEL) bt Daniel Rodrigues (BRA) 6-3 6-1

Alfie Hewett (GBR) bt 8-Frederic Cattaneo (FRA) 6-4 6-4

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.

For more information please contact Anthony Moruthane 082 382 0850 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or please visit: www.tennis.co.za