Sithole, Maripa advances, Els falls in Rio
South African quad ace Lucas Sithole and the country’s leading men’s player Evans Maripa ease into the second round while Leon Els bowed out in the Paralympics wheelchair tennis event in Rio de Janeiro on Friday evening.
The two-time Grand Slam champion Sithole disposed of Shota Kawano in clinical fashion to keep his medal hopes alive.
The Japanese was brushed aside 6-1 6-2 as the world number three advanced to a last-8 meeting with Ymanitu Silva from Brazil who saw off Brit’s Jamie Burdekin in three sets.
Third seed Sithole got the job done in just 52 minutes, conserving energy for what he hopes will be a concerted push for a podium spot.
In the men’s event, Leon Els was denied a chance to impress on his Paralympic debut as Ronald Nemeth from Hungary dictated the match from the baseline. The Hungarian saw off the 28-year-old in straight sets 6-3 6-3.
Els fought back from 4-1 down to 4-3 in the second set, Nemeth broke to establish a 5-3 lead and the South African world number 35 threatened an immediate response at deuce but an ace saw the Hungarian extend his advantage and closed the set 6-3.
Despite the loss, team coach Holger Losch was remarkably upbeat about Els’ performance, saying he fought hard. “Leon fought extremely hard but was just trying for too much at his first time at this big stage”, Losch said.
In another men’s singles match, the country’s leading men’s player Evans Maripa strolled into his first Paralympic second round on Friday night. The world number 17 dismissed Suthi Khlongrua from Thailand 7-5 6-0 in an hour and 14 minutes at the Olympic Tennis Centre.
Maripa survived a tough opening set with a good number of lets, but plenty of long, tough rallies too, neither willing to give an inch but came back strong, showed some fire in the second set.
The 26-year-old will next tangle with 10th seeded Japanese Takuya Miki, who had a bye in the first round.
“Evans was up against a tough competitor and as soon as he got rid of the early match nerves he really settled into a spectacular rhythm winning the second set,” said Losch.
Eighth seeded Kgothatso ‘KG’ Montjane will begin her battle on Saturday when she face Miho Nijo from Japan in the opening round.