Sela set to play in SA Tennis Open

2009-01-27 00:00

THE South African Tennis Open received a major boost yesterday when world number 106 Dudi Sela of Israel confirmed his participation in the event that takes place from Monday to Sunday at Montecasino in Johannesburg.

Sela, who lost in four sets to world number seven Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open’s third round this past week, is a last-minute entry and will provide stiff competition for Frenchmen Tsonga and Fabrice Santoro, plus Spain’s David Ferrer, the exciting Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus and SA favourite Kevin Anderson.

Players on tour are wary of Sela’s punishing backhand and, being brought up in Israel, his favourite surface is hardcourt, which he will be playing on at Montecasino.

At this, the first full ATP World Tour event to be staged in South Africa since 1995, the SA Open top seeds could well be Tsonga, world number 12 Ferrer and the French wizard Santoro. The seeds are likely to be named on Saturday.

Sela (23) is currently ranked 106 in the world, but in April last year he was ranked 57th. His ranking is expected to take a leap next week as he not only qualified for the Australian Open in Melbourne, but reached the third round before bowing out 6-4 6-2 1-6 6-1 to fifth seed Tsonga.

In his first match in Melbourne he beat 2003 finalist and last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Rainer Schuttler of Germany 1-6 6-2 6-4 6-4.

The son of a bus driver and nurse, Israeli Davis Cup hero Sela began playing tennis at the age of seven and his two favourite players are his country’s former number one, Amos Mansdorf, and the legendary Roger Federer. Surfing and soccer are his other interests.

SA Open tickets are available at Montecasino and Computicket, while the tournament will be televised live on SuperSport 5.

• Jonathan Cook will be reporting on the SA Open from Montecasino.

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