SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

15 April 2013

South Africa: Wheelchair Stars Shine at SA Open

South Africa's leading players shone at the Acsa South African Open at Ellis Park in Johannesburg last week, but were thwarted in their quest for titles in the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour Super Series event.

Frenchman Stephane Houdet, England's Andy Lapthorne and the Netherlands' Marjolein Buis walked away champions after some tight and exciting competition.

World number two Houdet beat Scotsman Gordon Reid in three sets 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to lift the men's singles title, while Buis defeated South Africa's KG Montjane in the women's singles final and Lapthorne claimed the quads singles title by defeating South Africa's Lucas Sithole.

Marathon

World number four Buis needed a long two hours and 24 minutes to defeat South Africa's KG Montjane in straight sets 6-3 6-3, while Lapthorne triumphed in the third set tie breaker against Sithole. The South African won the first set 6-3, the Englishman took the second 6-0 and won the third 7-6 (9-7).

All three newly crowned champions thanked the crowds for their support and assured the fans that they would be back next year to defend their titles.

"I have been visiting South Africa for 10 years and this is definitely one of the highlights of coming here," Houdet said. "I have so many great memories and I always enjoy my time here, so I will definitely return to defend my title."

'A decent show'

Reflecting on the final, Houdet said: "I don't think either of us played to our full potential, but we still gave the crowds a decent show.

"Gordon had a very tough match to beat (world number one) Shingo Kunieda in the semi-final, and I had a tough one, too, against (world number three) Gustavo Fernandez. It was a great match and I'm absolutely thrilled."

Houdet and his French partner Frederic Cattaneo celebrated a double victory, defeating second seeds Reid and Michael Jeremiasz 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the doubles final.

'Incredibly proud'

Dutch player Buis was clear about her goals when she arrived in South Africa. "I wanted to win the women's singles and doubles' titles, and I am incredibly proud that I was able to achieve my goals," said Buis, who partnered with Britain's Lucy Shuker to defeat Montjane and Germany's Katharina Kruger 6-1 6-2 in the doubles' final.

"There is absolutely no question about my coming back next year," she said. "I love coming to South Africa, because we are always made to feel very welcome here.

"Now that the SA Open is a Super Series event on the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour, it will continue to attract the top players in the world and that makes it an event no one should miss."

Montjane was disappointed to lose, especially after she broke the Dutch player's serve twice in the second set and had the chance to take the set to a tie break.

'Frustrations'

"Yes, I am disappointed, but I let my frustrations get to me," she said, after her first Super Series final.

"The match was incredibly slow for me, because I am used to playing at a much faster pace. This is something I will need to get used to as I am going to face opponents like Marjolein in the future."

Montjane said that beating Jiske Griffioen, the world number three, in the finals of the Acsa Gauteng Open and the Acsa SA Open semi-finals has given her a lot of confidence.

'Confident'

"I'm looking forward to the rest of the season," she said. "I feel very confident after these two weeks. I'm ready to go out there and challenge and to get more experience. Who knows? Semi-finals last year, finals this year, maybe next year I'll lift the trophy."

The quads singles match between Sithole and Lapthorne went down the wire after both players won a set a piece. They reached nine-all in deciding set's tie- breaker before the Englishman took the title after two unforced errors from the South African.

"It was a fantastic contest," said Lapthorne. "Lucas is one of the grittiest competitors on the circuit and he just never gives up. I thought we might be out there all day.

'Delighted'

"I'm delighted to have defended my title, but actually, it's never nice to win on someone else's faults. The way Lucas has come along, and the way he is playing, I'm sure that he will be opposite the net in next year's final again."

Sithole agreed, saying that he was nervous, but when he tried to relax, he took it a step too far.

"I just lack some experience playing at this level," he said. "I realised I was getting tense, so I tried to relax but I relaxed too much and gave away points.

"Still, I'm up to fourth in the world after beating the world number one (David Wagner) and that is something really positive to take away from my first Super Series final."

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