Top 3 favourites quietly confident in aiming for SA Tennis Open title

2009-02-01 00:00

TALKING to the media at Montecasino in Johannesburg yesterday, three of the favoured players for the SA Tennis Open title were quietly confident as the R5 million ATP World Tour event headed into its first day today.

Top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France said the field is wide open and competition will come from all quarters, “especially those who can serve well and return well”.

“I will have to fight in every match as the altitude here is a big equaliser and the players who adapt best will succeed,” Tsonga said.

The quietly spoken Tsonga said high expectations and being the top seed here due to his number six world ranking would not pressure him unduly. “I have won Challenger tournaments as the favourite, so it’s not more pressure.”

Tsonga sees his African heritage — through a Congolese father — might help as well.

“I have only played in Algeria before here, but my father is African and that may encourage fans to support me at Montecasino.”

With the margin for error very small at altitude, Tsonga’s power game will have to be on song from the outset. “I have played many times at altitude and done well, plus my practices at Montecasino have been very good,” he said.

“The hard court here is quite slow, but at this altitude the ball travels very fast. Big servers will also benefit. I think [SA favourite] Kevin Anderson will do well as his serve is a potent weapon. I am playing doubles with Kevin and am looking forward to it.”

France has more players in the top 100 than any other country, and Tsonga’s thoughts on this issue are clear. “It is simple: we have outstanding tennis academies in France that encourage the development of players.”

Eighth seed Marcos Baghdatis said he is feeling fit and healthy. “Getting used to the altitude is tough, but after [injuries] last year I am happy to be having fun on court again,” he said.

Baghdatis had some frank thoughts on the Australian Open that climaxed yesterday. “I was playing in the early hours of the morning and finishing at 5 am. They must fix this. I am also not happy with women getting the same prize money as the men. They only play best of three sets, not best of five, so they work less than the men. … I have nothing against women, but it is not fair because it is not equal.”

Second seed David Ferrer of Spain is raring to go, but has a tough first round, when he meets Israeli David Greul.

ORDER OF PLAY: Today: Centre Court (1 pm): Sergio Roitman (Arg) vs Leonardo Mayer (Arg), followed by Rik de Voest (Rsa) vs Ivan Navarro (Spa), and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (Spa) vs Raven Klaasen (Rsa). 7 pm: Kevin Anderson (Rsa)/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) vs Marcel Granollers (Spa)/Santiago Ventura (Spa), followed by 8-Marcos Baghdatis (Cyp) vs Andrew Anderson (Rsa).

TV: 12.45 pm to midnight; (live on SuperSport 5).

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

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