SA Tennis Open about to begin

2010-02-01 00:00

THE much-heralded arrival of top seed Gael Monfils at Montecasino yesterday morning quickened the pulse in the knowledge that the R3,75 million SA Tennis Open is soon to begin in earnest.

Monday is actually a somewhat muted start as the top stars are given another day to acclimatise before swinging into action on Tuesday, so most eyes will be on SA wild card Rik de Voest’s first-rounder against fifth seeded American Rajeev Ram and eighth seed Stephane Robert of France versus American Brendan Evans.

For the rest, it’s the final qualifying matches into the main draw and a number of doubles clashes.

Top seed Monfils is quietly confident of his chances, secure in the knowledge that his troublesome shoulder has been signalled for action by his medical team and the Frenchman will be determined to see off the challenge of second seeded Spaniard David Ferrer in particular.

Ferrer’s smouldering Mediterranean good looks are sure to set many a heart aflutter at the casino resort and those fans who prefer tabloid journalism to the more sober approach of the broadsheets will be watching in keen anticipation for a repeat of his racquet-smashing antics during his pulsating semi-final defeat last year against France’s Jeremy Chardy.

Sadly Chardy, the scheduled third seed and runner-up to countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last year, was among two withdrawals at the weekend along with compatriot and shadow fifth seed Marc Gicquel, both citing late injuries as the reason.

A setback some months ago was the reluctant unavailability of world number 10 Tsonga, whose medical team had scheduled a rest period after the Australian Open.

Put that aside, though, as world number 12 Monfils, who himself withdraw last year due to a late injury — the gruelling ATP World Tour is no place for sissies — and world number 17 Ferrer are in Soccer City this week and that is surely more than enough to satisfy South Africans starved for tennis in their own backyard.

SA Tennis revived this event last year after a 13-year drought and the way supporters responded in 2009 has ensured that this Saturday and Sunday’s semi-finals and final are sold out.

The pressing doubles question is whether the Grand Slam combination of top seeds Wesley Moodie of SA and Kevin Ullyett of Zimbabwe can be extended, although the weekend arrival of doubles specialist Jeff Coetzee to join his SA Davis Cup partner De Voest might provide the answer.

The tournament will be televised live, all on SuperSport 6, and is scheduled from 11.30 to midnight on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Friday’s quarter-finals are from 2 pm and Saturday’s semi-finals from 1.30 pm and Sunday’s final from 12.30 pm.

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