SA’s Wolmarans hammers Vicente in a day of high drama

2009-04-15 00:00

THERE was drama aplenty on the third day of the Soweto Men’s Open at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex yesterday.

A stunningly easy victory by a wildcard from South Africa over a giant-killer was interspersed with two thrilling second-round matches that went down to the wire in nerve-wracking tiebreaks, and then the disappointment of a player who saw his possible entry into the quarter-finals derailed by a foot injury.

For local fans it was on-fire SA qualifier Fritz Wolmarans who provided the most cheer. Out for the last year through a serious knee injury, the 23-year-old with the flashing continental good looks hammered pale Spaniard Fernando Vicente — the upset winner over second seed Gilles Muller of Luxembourg on Monday.

Wolmarans’s 6-1 6-4 victory was built on a solid platform. “I served well with a high percentage of first serves, and then put pressure on his service games and I was able to maintain that throughout,” the dark-haired Wolmarans said.

First up, Israel’s Harel Levy and Austria’s Stefan Koubek had slugged it out on centre court for two-and-a-half hours before a 22-point tiebreak decided matters in a third set fraught with tension as it drew to a controversial close.

Not only did chair umpire Adel Nour have his hands full with inexperienced ball boys, his linesmen stoked already-flaring tempers under a blazing Highveld sun, and the man from Egypt had to make a series of critical calls that went against both players. Levy was first to let rip, and his agonised howls of frustration in that seesaw tiebreaker saw a vital call go his way a few points later, leading to his eventual 7-5 5-7 7-6 (12/10) victory and a spot in the last eight.

Straight after Levy’s match-winning point, it was Koubek’s turn to vent his fury on Nour, provoking a finger-wagging rebuke from the beleagured man in the hot seat.

Showered, lunched and a little calmer an hour later at the press conference, the combative Koubek — his persona reeks of caged lion — was diplomacy personified, but a hint of anger eventually bubbled to the surface.

“Harel is good, but I felt I was the better player,” Koubek said. “He was very lucky to win today … The chair umpire had a tough job as the linesmen were not very good, but I was the one who ended up on the wrong side of the calls.”

Levy was understandably relieved at the win. “Stefan is tough, he forces you to fight for every point and I was a bit lucky to get through, the match points [five] were going either way in that tiebreak,” he said.

The other two-and-a-half hour marathon eventually went the way of Australia’s Joseph Sirianni over Switzerland’s Marco Chiudinelli, while a visibly disappointed Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France limped off court trailing fourth seed Thiago Alves of Brazil 3-1 in the first set.

RESULTS

Singles second round: Harel Levy (Isr) bt Stefan Koubek (Aut) 5-7 7-5 7-6 (12/10); Joseph Sirianni (Aus) bt Marco Chiudinelli (Sui) 3-6 6-3 7-6 (12/10); Fritz Wolmarans (Rsa) bt Fernando Vicente (Esp) 6-1 6-4; 4-Thiago Alves (Bra) bt Edouard Roger-Vasselin (Fra) 3-1 by retirement (foot injury).

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