NAMIBIA's upcoming tennis star, Connor van Schalkwyk won the Confederation of African Tennis Southern African u16 boys singles final after a three-set victory over Anro Nel of South Africa on Tuesday.
In a thrilling match where fortunes swayed to and fro, the more consistent Van Schalkwyk held his nerve to win the encounter 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.
With both players displaying strong serves, the first set went according to serve until the seventh game when Van Schalkwyk got the first breakthrough.
He forced Nel into some errors to gain two break points and although Nel came back to deuce, Van Schalkwyk finally converted a fourth break point to go 4-3 up.
Van Schalkwyk held his serve and then once again broke an erratic Nel to win the first set 6-3.
Nel immediately struck back when he broke Van Schalkwyk's serve at the start of the second set, and with the Namibian hitting some loose shots, Nel broke him a second time to go 3-0 up.
Van Schalkwyk struck back with some fine passing shots to break Nel's serve, and then reduced the gap to 3-2 with some strong serves.
With both players holding serves, Nel went 4-3 ahead, but Van Schalkwyk had a great chance when he won three break points in the eighth game, but he could not capitalise as Nel's strong serve came to his rescue to go 5-3 up.
Van Schalkwyk struck back with two aces to win his serve and then finally broke Nel with some fine passing shots to draw level at 5-5.
Both players held their serves to force a tie-break, where Nel streaked into a 6-0 lead with some fine passing shots. Van Schalkwyk managed to pull back to 6-3, but Nel won the next point with a forehand winner to win the set 7-3.
Both players stepped up the tempo in the third and final set with some spectacular rallies that had the appreciative crowd cheering for more.
Van Schalkwyk, meanwhile, started to attack more and kept Nel under pressure with some winning volleys at the net.
Both players kept their serves till the eighth game when Van Schalkwyk broke Nel with a smash at the net to go 5-3 ahead. He then wrapped up the game with his strong serve to win the set 6-3 and the match 2-1.
"I started very well, but my plan didn't work out so well. My aim was to keep him on the backline, but my forehand was not too good today," Van Schalkwyk said after the match.
"In the second set I had a few break points, but I got too excited and couldn't put them away.
"In the third set it was crucial to win the first game but luckily I got that and then I just stayed ahead with my serve to win the match," he said, adding:
"It's very nice to win this title, especially here in Windhoek. where I had great support."
The Girls u16 title was won by the second-seeded Suzanie Pretorius of South Africa who beat her compatriot and top-seeded Leigh van Zyl 6-3, 6-3 in the final.
Pretorius immediately broke Van Zyl's serve in the first game and then remained ahead with her consistent serve and rallies to win the first set 6-3.
The second set went according to serves until the sixth game when Pretorius once again broke Van Zyl to go 4-2 up. Van Zyl immediately broke back with some fine passing shots, but Pretorius soon recovered to take the set 6-3 and the match 2-0.
Pretorius was very relieved after the match.
"It was a tough match, but I coped and managed to pull it through. I've been struggling with my tennis a bit lately, so it means so much to me to win this title," she said.
In the Boys u14 singles final, the second-seeded Leo Matthysen of South Africa beat the top-seeded Takure Mhwandagara of Zimbabwe 6-3, 6-1, while the top-seeded Midzi Tanyaradzwa of Zimbabwe beat the unseeded Jani Steyn of South Africa 6-3, 6-1 in the Girls u14 final.