Ups and downs for SA in sizzling Soweto

2010-04-15 00:00

THERE was triumph and despair aplenty on another sweltering day at the Soweto Open yesterday as the men’s and women’s singles players battled it out for a berth in the quarter-finals.

South Africa have one player through to the men’s singles quarter-finals, but none in the women’s last eight.

The experienced Izak van der Merwe (26) beat 19-year-old countryman Nikala Scholtz 6-3 6-3 in a battle of the big-serving wild cards, but women’s wild card Chanel Simmonds self-destructed to some extent in bowing out 4-6 6-3 6-1 to world 179 Mandy Minella of Luxembourg after racing to a 5-0 lead in the first set.

Scholtz struggled to read the SA Davis Cup player’s serve, before wasting his own weapon when he persisted in serving to Van der Merwe’s backhand when it was clear that the Kempton Park lad was struggling with his forehand return.

Scholtz, the son of former Western Province fullback and kicking machine Calla and a provincial tennis-playing mother, oozes talent, so his disappointment can be tempered by the fact that just 48 hours earlier he had earned his first-ever ATP points. He is coached by Stellenbosch-based Robbie Blair (26-year-old son of ex-Springbok and WP flyhalf Robbie Blair), who was on a University of San Diego tennis scholarship before turning to coaching at a young age.

Van der Merwe served and volleyed well and, in contrast to his opponent, he kept mistakes to a minimum, while he got the break early in each set.

“Nikala is very talented. He’s got all the shots and if he can play constantly on tour, gain experience and learn how to win, he could go far,” was Van der Merwe’s summing up of SA’s most promising teenager.

Scholtz has a wealthy New York backer who singled him out as a potential world-beater and is prepared to finance the Paarl Boys’ High product in the hope that payback time will come should the youngster break into the big time. SA’s top junior last year, the ice-blonde Scholtz travels with Blair to Mexico next before deciding whether to accept one of several U.S. College scholarship offers or stay on tour.

Simmonds lost her way after an attacking first five games, while once Minella had stumbled on the fact that if she exploited the inexperienced 17-year-old’s weaker forehand the tennis gods would look more kindly upon her, it was pretty much plain sailing.

Women’s number one and two seeds, Elena Baltacha and Tamarine Tanasugarn of Great Britain and Thailand respectively, went through in straight sets, while the highest remaining men’s seed, number five Dustin Brown of Jamaica, suffered the frustration of his match being suspended at set-all due to the slanting sun and shadows after the momentum had swung his way.

RESULTS

Men’s singles first round: Alexander Peya (Aut) bt Evgeny Kirillov (Rus) 7-6 (3) 5-7 7-6 (4).

Second round: Izak van der Merwe (Rsa) bt Nikala Scholtz (Rsa) 6-3 6-3; Gilles Muller (Fra) bt 4-Harel Levy (Isr) 6-3 7-5; Raemon Sluiter (Ned) bt Ruben Bemelmans (Bel) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (3); Daniel King-Turner (Nzl) bt Filip Prpic (Swe) 6-2 6-4; Alexander Peya (Aut) bt Denys Molchanov (Ukr) 6-4 7-5; 6-Stephane Bohli (Sui) bt Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (Esp) 6-3 6-2; Nicolas Mahut (Fra) bt Niels Desein (Bel) 6-3 4-6 6-3; 5-Dustin Brown (Jam) vs Noam Okun (Isr) 6-7 (3) 7-5 (play suspended).

Women’s singles second round: 8-Patricia Mayr (Aut) bt Justyna Jegiolka (Pol) 6-1 7-5; 2-Tamarine Tanasugarn (Tha) bt Ester Goldfeld (USA) 6-1 6-2; 5-Mariya Koryttseva (Ukr) bt Oksana Kalashnikova (Geo) 6-3 6-2; Nina Bratchikova (Rus) bt Eirini Georgatou (Gre) 6-3 6-2; 7-Stephanie Dubois (Can) bt Bojana Jovanovski (Srb) 6-2 6-0; 6-Jarmila Groth (Aut) bt Ksenia Lykina (Rus) 6-2 6-2; 1-Elena Baltacha (Gbr) bt Kathrin Woerle (Ger) 7-6 (1) 6-2; Mandy Minella (Lux) bt Chanel Simmonds (Rsa) 4-6 6-3 6-1.

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