Former world number five for Soweto Open

2010-03-27 00:00

FORMER world number five and Australian Open finalist Rainer Schuettler of Germany will be slugging it out for the Soweto Open title at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto from April 12 to 17.

With prize money of R750 000 for both the men’s event and the women’s Soweto Open, the two running concurrently at the same venue, tournament sponsors City of Johannesburg have already succeeded in attracting a quality men’s field.

The women’s line-up will be released shortly.

“The fascinating thing about the Challenger Tour is that it brings a mix of older players who have performed superbly on the tour and are attempting to get their rankings up again, and young, talented players who are starting out their careers and are looking for points,” said tournament director and KwaZulu-Natal Tennis president Gavin Crookes, who hails from Wartburg.

Apart from Schuettler’s stellar world ranking at his peak, that grand slam final saw him account for Richard Krajicek, James Blake and David Nalbandian in the quarter-finals, and Andy Roddick in the semis before losing toAndre Agassi in the title match.

“A couple of years down the line when we see players like Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko contesting grand slam semi-finals, we will remember watching him play in the Soweto Open,’’ Crookes added.

Lacko (22) is currently the highest-ranked player entered in Soweto at world number 62. He beat last Sunday’s Indian Wells winner Ivan Ljubicic in Zagreb earlier this year, so he is clearly chock-full with talent and going places.

Apart from Lacko, among Schuettler’s chief rivals will be another Slovakian, Karol Beck, India’s Somdev Devvarman, former world number one junior Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, Frenchman Nicolas Mahut and Israel’s Harel Levy.

No South African has made the cut and Rik de Voest, Izak van der Merwe, Raven Klaasen and company will either need wild cards or have to play the qualifying tournament on April 10 and 11.

Meanwhile, the South African Davis Cup team’s crucial Euro-Africa Group I tie against Finland from May 7 to 9 will be played at Groenkloof in Pretoria, where South Africa have never been beaten.

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