Composed Van der Merwe goes through to Soweto Open semis

2010-04-16 00:00

THE big-serving Daniel King-Turner of New Zealand was outgunned 6-4 6-1 by an impressive Izak van der Merwe at the R1,5 million Soweto Open yesterday, as the South African forced his way into the men’s singles semi-finals at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre.

And to crown a great day for the host country, wildcards Van der Merwe and compatriot Raven Klaasen demolished Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller and Alexander Peya of Austria 6-2 6-1 to claim a berth in today’s men’s doubles final.

Great Britain’s Elena Baltacha’s title dreams were dashed as the top seed bowed out 2-6 7-6 (2) 6-4 to inspired sixth seed Jarmila Groth of Australia in the last eight of the women’s singles.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Van der Merwe in a tight first set against an opponent with a massive yet erratic serve, which became increasingly problematic for the Kiwi as the SA Davis Cup player cranked up the pressure.

Crucially though, the 1,96 m South African, who weighs in at a deceptive 88 kg, broke King-Turner’s serve as early as the first game and proceeded to control the match from that point, with admirable composure.

“I got the break early, kept serving well and then when I got the break in the second set I think he got a bit down, but I never thought the match was over as I was serving second. Once I got that second break [in the fifth game of the second set] I felt more confident,” said Van der Merwe.

With a few matches under his belt, he is clearly growing in confidence.

Van der Merwe has only dropped his serve once, against fellow South African Ruan Roelofse in the first round. The Kempton Park lad’s all-round game was exemplary and he looks in good enough shape to go all the way in tomorrow’s showdown.

Groth was ranked 54th in the world but an ankle injury at last year’s U.S. Open and a spate of irritating illnesses, which have still not left her, must have made the last six months or so frustrating for such an all-action personality. But that didn’t stop her bubbly sense of humour.

An exciting player who moves beautifully, it was noticed that Groth was swatting a pesky bunch of bees away during the match.

“You saw that I smashed them all,” she quipped, and as another gnat of some sort flew around her face during the press conference she said, with wit every bit as rapid-fire as her play, “But that’s the one I missed.”

With 29 countries (from Australia to the Ukraine) represented in Soweto, Slovakia-born Groth, who moved to Australia at the age of 15, would certainly win the most entertaining press-conference of the tournament award.

RESULTS

Men’s singles second round (suspended from Wednesday): 5-Dustin Brown (Jam) vs Noam Okun (Isr) 6-7 (3) 7-5 6-4. Quarter-finals: Izak van der Merwe (Rsa) bt Daniel King-Turner (Nzl) 6-4 6-1; 6-Stephane Bohli (Sui) bt Nicolas Mahut (Fra) 6-0 7-5; Alexander Peya (Aut) bt Gilles Muller (Lux) 1-6 6-3 6-3; 5-Dustin Brown (Jam) bt Raemon Sluiter (Ned) 6-3 7-6 (8).

Women’s singles quarter-finals: 2-Tamarine Tanasugarn (Tha) bt Patricia Mayr (Aut) 4-0 (ret); Mandy Minella (Lux) bt Mariya Koryttseva (Ukr) 6-3 4-6 6-3; 6-Jarmila Groth (Aus) bt 1-Elena Baltacha (Gbr) 2-6 7-6 (2) 6-4; Nina Bratchikova (Rus) bt 7-Stephanie Dubois (Can) 6-4 7-5.

Friday’s singles semi-finals — Men: Izak van der Merwe (Rsa) vs Alexander Peya (Aut); 5-Dustin Brown (Jam) vs 6-Stephane Bohli (Sui). Women: 6-Jarmila Groth (Aus) vs Nina Bratchikova (Rus); 2-Tamarine Tanasugarn (Tha) vs Mandy Minella (Lux).

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