LEON ELS OPENS CAMPAIGN FOR FIFTH SOWETO OPEN TITLE
South African number 2 wheelchair tennis men’s player Leon Els got his Soweto Open title defence off to a winning start on Friday with a straight sets triumph over Mpho Mhlongo at Arthur Ashe Tennis Center. The top seed prevailed 6-3 6-1 to keep his bid for a consecutive fifth singles title on track at Jabavu in Soweto.
The 29-year-old from Potchefstroom in the North West Province, will meet fifth seed Luwie Mabelane in the quarter-final round.
Top junior Alwande Skhosana also booked a place in the quarter-final round with a topsy-turvy two-set triumph over Zimbabwe’s Nyasha Mharakurwa and Thato Tsomole impressed in his first two rounds victories against Mzwanele Thentsi and fourth seed Ishmael Tshipuke.
Skhosana progressed with a 7-6(3) 6-2 against the Zimbabwean world number 39 and will next face seventh seed Vuyisani Mantshula, who defeated Joseph Manzini 6-0 6-3.
Skhosana rallied from 2-4 down in the first set, clinched three games to lead 5-4, and went on to win a tie-breaker in convincing fashion. The 16-year-old wasted little time in the second set and sealed his first victory against the 34-year-old Zimbabwean.
Former world number 2 junior Thato Tsomole who was named the Newcomer of the Year at the SA Sports Awards in 2013 followed Skhosana into the quarter-final round. Tsomole staged a master-class performance edging out Mzwanele Thentsi in a stunning 6-0 6-2 in the opening round.
The 20-year-old who targets his first Soweto Open title caused the first upset of the tournament with a convincing 6-3 6-2 victory over fourth seed Ishmael Tshipuke to book a spot in the last eight.
In the women’s event, fourth-seed Nokwanda Hlongwane fell victim to unseeded Mabel Mankgele.
The world number 27, Mankgele delivered a second shock of the day and stung Hlongwane in a hard-fought three setter 5-7 6-2 7-6(4).
Mankgele will next go head-to-head against Dipuo Molefe, who toppled Simpiwe Manqele in straight sets 6-3 6-2.