SITHOLE HANDS ALCOTT A SHOT AT WAGNER
World number three Lucas Sithole bowed out in the quads semi-final and his premature departure at the Gauteng Open paved the way for world number one Dylan Alcott to chase down his first title on South African soil this Sunday.
Alcott faced fourth seed Ymanitu Silva and barely broke a sweat as he easily dispatched the Brazilian 6-0 6-2.
But the Australian could have his job cut out to get past two-time champion David Wagner - the man who has denied Sithole in the last two editions of the Level 1 International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni.
Sithole clinched the first set in a tie-break 7-6 (6), but the former world number one showed his experience as he staged a strategic comeback to take the next two sets 6-2 6-4.
Wagner is chasing his fourth consecutive victory in the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour event, sponsored by the Airports Company South Africa.
At 42, Wagner is showing no signs of slowing down and he has the pedigree to pull it off.
The American claimed three hat-tricks last year in the NEC Masters, US Open and the Swiss Open, but Alcott is becoming a thorn in his side.
Since former wheelchair basketball Paralympian returned to the tennis circuit in 2014, Wagner has gone head-to-head with Alcott 22 times and they are tied on 11 in victories.
But the 25-year-old Melbourne right-hander has dominated their last seven encounters, including the Australian Open in January where Alcott defended the title in straight sets 6-2 6-2.
Alcott hopes to break the deadlock, but he is taking nothing for granted.
“David showed against Lucas that he has come here to win again,” Alcott said. “He is as tough to beat as ever and will definitely play a strategic game in the final.
“It was good to play Silva in the semi-final, because his game is similar to Wags and he has improved a lot. I won the first set pretty quickly, but the second set went to 40 minutes. I’m hitting the ball well and I’m serving well and the second set gave me a chance to test a few tactics I’ll use against Wags.
“I have a lot more power than Wags and I’m really good at positioning the ball; he has years of experience and he love to change up the pace. Quads players usually struggle to get out of the way the ball comes at our chairs, so we all use that strategy.
“I am pretty mobile, though, and I can usually sidestep the ball. He knows that, so he will pull a few other tricks out of his sleeve. One thing is for certain, it’s going to be an epic final.”
Wagner was cagey about his plans for the final.
“My coach and I worked out strategies for Lucas and Dylan,” he admitted. “We’ll touch base before the final to work out the final game plan, but I’m ready to fire for that third title.”
QUADS SEMI-FINAL RESULTS:
RSA unless stated:
1-Dylan Alcott (AUS) bt 4-Ymanitu Silva (BRA) 6-0 6-2
2-David Wagner (USA) bt 3-Lucas Sithole 6-7(6) 6-2 6-4
1-Lucas Sithole/ David Wagner (USA) bt Ronewa Mudzanani/ Queen Nhlapo 6-0 6-0
Dylan Alcott/ Heath Davidson (AUS) bt Bongani Dlamini/ Danny Mohlamonyane 6-2 6-1
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.