TOP SEEDS TAKE IT AWAY AT SA OPEN
The world’s top ranked wheelchair tennis stars proved unbeatable as Stephane Houdet, Jiske Griffioen and Dylan Alcott all marched to victory in the SA Open finals at Ellis Park Tennis Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Houdet from France won the Super Series event in 2013 and 2014, but compatriot Nicolas Peifer denied the world number one a hat-trick last year.
The Frenchman made a popular return to the winner’s circle when he defeated Peifer in just 47 minutes to claim his third men’s singles title in straight sets 6-3 6-1.
“When I played the SA Open last year, I had only used my new chair for two weeks,” the delighted 45-year-old said.
“I am closer to the end than to the beginning. To be able to compete and to win is something I really cherish. I won the Gauteng Open and the SA Open back-to-back in 2014 and to do it for a second time is really special for me.
“Nicolas put up quite a fight in the first set, but I served really well and I was very accurate with my returns. To be fair, I don’t think he was in the second set mentally. I love coming to South Africa and competing here. Hopefully I can come back and make it a third double next year.”
Griffioen also faced final round opponent from 2015, but had a tougher time of it to make it two in a row against Sabine Ellerbrock from Germany.
The Dutch world number one took the first set 6-2, but Ellerbrock rallied to take the defending champion to 5-all in the second. Griffioen broke Ellerbrock in the 11th game to go 6-5, but the German world number six just wouldn’t give up.
“I thought that last game would never end,” laughed Griffioen. “I had a match point, but she took us to deuce and then we went back to deuce eight times before I could finish it off to win 7-5. In fact, if Sabine hadn’t hit it into the net to give me the win, we might still be out there. All credit to Sabine for a fantastic final, especially the second set.”
Griffioen also partnered compatriot Aniek van Koot to the women’s doubles title, beating fellow Dutch player Majorlein Buis and South Africa’s KG Montjane 6-3 6-1.
“That last point against Sabine took a lot out of me, but I had enough left in the tank for the doubles and I’m absolutely delighted to go home a double winner,” Griffioen said.
“It’s always tough to defend a title and I knew coming into the SA Open that I would have to play my best tennis. There is so much pressure on you, but if you can pull it off, it really builds your confidence and it sends a message to your opponents.”
Alcott’s first appearance in the two UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour events, sponsored by the Airports Company South Africa, was hugely profitable.
A week ago the Australian beat world number two David Wagner for the Gauteng Open title, on Saturday he claimed the quads doubles title with partner Heath Davidson and on Sunday, celebrated triple success when he beat Wagner 6-4 6-4 for the SA Open quads singles title.
“This trip has been absolutely unforgettable,” the 25-year-old Melbourne native said.
“I’m going home with three trophies and I saw the Big Five on the game drive in the Pilansburg; it doesn’t get much better than this.”
Wagner and Alcott trades serves in both sets, but in the end, the Australian’s powerful strokes proved fatal for the American.
“Wags played a great match and kept the pressure up,” Alcott said. “I served really well and hit the ball well, but I missed some shots by a little bit. When you are missing by two metres, you know you need to change things, but when the misses are close, you just need to stay patient, because they will start dropping.
“I’m very happy with the way this trip panned out for me and I’ll take a lot of positives out of these two weeks into the next couple of events.”
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.