SITHOLE’S FINAL ASSAULT HALTED BY RAIN
South Africa’s number one wheelchair tennis player Lucas Sithole was left frustrated by the rain and will have to wait for Friday morning to finish the quads final of the SA Open at Ellis Park Tennis Stadium.
The 30-year-old top seed was 6-2, 3-0 up in the already rain-delayed final against Israel’s Itay Erenlib when the heavens opened once again and play was called off.
Having controlled the match in every department until that point, Sithole will be confident of ultimate success and regaining the title he last won in 2015.
Meanwhile, the only other matches that were completed today were the men’s semifinals – albeit after several lengthy delays and interruptions.
Stefan Olsson of Sweden caused something of an upset in beating top-seeded Frenchman Stephane Houdet 6-3, 6-3. Houdet is currently ranked number one in the world but struggled with his serve and to tame Olsson’s powerful forehand and revamped topspin backhand.
“I had to take a few more chances than I usually do but it worked really well today,” said the Swede afterwards.
“It’s mostly the forehand that works perfectly against Stephane, when I can get the short angles against him and make him push even more. That’s where the momentum was today.
“I’ve improved a lot on my topspin backhand. It’s much more solid. I can hit it a lot harder and I know where it’s going now so I’m playing much better tennis than I’ve ever done but I know I have more steps to go as well,” said Olsson, adding that he was surprised by Houdet’s service struggles.
“The first set, he wasn’t playing very well. I’ve never seen him doing three double faults in one game so I’m happy with that – I’ll take that for sure.”
As for taking on Paralympic champion Gordon Reid in tomorrow’s final, Olsson added: “It’s going to be a tough match. I have played lots of matches before against Gordon and he has won a lot against me. The only thing I know is that I won against him here last year in the quarters so I’m looking forward to a good game and we’ll see what happens.”
Reid booked his spot in the final by defeating Belgian second seed Joachim Gerard. Coming back from 3-1 down in the first set, Reid didn’t look back and prevented Gerard from winning any more games in the rain-affected match which ended 6-3, 6-0.
“It feels really good. I’ve been in the final here a couple of times before but never won the title so I’m looking forward to the match tomorrow and will hopefully get my first championship here,” said the 25-year-old Scot afterwards.
“I had a slow start, just missing a few too many balls and Jo(achim) was serving very well at the start but I then started putting a bit more pressure on him with my returns and I served quite well too which put even more pressure on him.”
Speaking about his chances in tomorrow morning’s final, Reid added: “I’ve got a pretty good record recently against Olsson. He’s playing really well at the moment though and he’s been in good form this year so he’s going to be tough to beat.
“I think it will be a quality match and I’m looking forward to it.”
Play on the final day of the SA Open will begin at 8am to accommodate the delayed quads final. First up will be the men’s final between Olsson and Reid followed bythe all-Dutch women’s final between Marjolein Buis and Diede de Groot, then Sithole v Erenlib and the doubles.