Tsonga gives SA Open the thumbs up

2009-02-11 00:00

THE singles final of the SA Tennis Open at Montecasino in Johannesburg on Sunday brought the ATP World Tour event to a successful conclusion.

Such was the professionalism evident in the running of the tournament that it is difficult to believe this prestigious spot on the world tennis calendar was taken away from South Africa for 13 years.

It is scarcely believable, too, that rank-bad administration in the 1990s led to the tournament being sold off.

Those days of inept officialdom are gone.

In SA Tennis Association (Sata) CEO Ian Smith and Sata president Johan Roets, the sport has able men determined to see the country regain its rightful place on the world stage.

And the tournament’s success was evident in the unanimous vote received for its organisation by those who matter most — the players.

Singles championship winner, top seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, who beat fifth seed and countryman Jeremy Chardy 6-4 7-6 (7/5) in the final at Montecasino, had nothing but praise.

“The event was well organised,” he said. “Everything was great and the only notable problem for me is the altitude, but that is the nature of tennis; one has to adapt in different weather conditions.”

The son of a Congolese-French father and French mother was thrilled to win on the continent of his father’s birth.

“I have a deep connection with Africa. It feels good to win a tournament on African soil. I loved the crowds, they were behind me all the way and I look forward to coming back next year.

“I think Jeremy [Chardy] played well, but was let down by experience when it mattered most. It was his first ATP Tour final.

He has that experience now and I am sure he will do well in the future. I started the match high-tempo, but he was up to the challenge; it is always hard starting on serve. What is important is I improved as the match progressed.”

As to his penchant for wearing yellow tennis shirts, the answer was simple:

“My father used to play handball in the Congo and their team was called Diables Noirs (black devils) and their attire was yellow, This is the reason I wear a yellow shirt. "

And the title has fuelled his confidence.

“For one to be in the [world] top 10, one has to win at least two tournaments a year and now that I have the SA Tennis Open in the bag so early, I can play the rest of the year without too much pressure.”

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