SA Open attracts top players

2008-01-26 00:00

THE field for the SA Open tennis tournament, sponsored by SA Airways, has a healthy mix of the host country’s top players and a competitive overseas contingent.

The SA Open, to be held at Selborne Park Tennis Stadium in East London from February 12 to 17, boasts South Africans Rik de Voest and Kevin Anderson, who join countryman Wesley Moodie among the first acceptors for this R875 000 ATP Tour event.

The official player acceptance list confirms the top 22 ranked players entered and accepted for the tournament’s main draw. The balance of the 32-man draw will be made up of four qualifiers, four wild cards and two special exemption spots reserved for players based on their performances at other ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) events being played at the same time as the qualifying event for the SA Open.

The qualifying tournament will be played on February 9 and 10 at the stadium.

Ian Smith, CEO of the SA Tennis Association (Sata) and tournament director, said that Sata are reserving their right to announce the wild card spots at the last minute. “We are still hopeful in securing one or two big names for the tournament and with the acceptance list confirmed the only chance we have of bringing the big names to Selborne Park will be through offering them a wild card spot.”

Moodie, currently ranked 164, and De Voest (118) will be joined by rising star Kevin Anderson (208) to ensure there will be at least three South Africans in the main draw. Anderson, who recently qualified for his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open, is excited to be in the main draw.

“I’ve never played an ATP Tour tournament in South Africa so it will be fantastic to play at home and in the main draw,” said Anderson. “I’ve always loved playing junior events in East London, so to be part of the SA Open as a starting-out pro at Selborne Park is a dream come true.”

Three players in the main draw are ranked in the top 100 of world tennis.

They are Swedes Thomas Johansson (51) and Jonas Bjorkman (67th in singles and 15th in doubles) as well as Stefan Koubek of Austria (68). Rik de Voest is the highest-ranked South African on the acceptance list at 118. De Voest, beat Koubek in the semi-finals of last years SA Open in Durban, eventually losing to Mathieu Montcourt of France in the final.

Johansson won the 2002 Australian Open title and was ranked seventh in the world in the same year. Bjorkman has played 61 Davis Cup ties for Sweden, won six singles titles and 51 doubles titles in earning over $14 million in prize money.

Bjorkman is no stranger to South Africa. He even honeymooned here and has a home at Pezula in the Cape.

“South Africa is a beautiful spot. I have been there three or four times but I have never had a chance to play a tournament there,” he said.

Bjorkman will also use the opportunity to join up for the first time this year with his new doubles partner, Kevin Ullyett of Zimbabwe. “Kevin and I played once before and we did okay. We’re teaming up for the whole year and this is our first tournament.”

Acceptance list

Thomas Johannson (SWE) 51, Jonas Bjorkman (SWE) 67, Stefan Koubek (AUT) 68, Rik de Voest (RSA) 118, Frederico Gil (POR) 140, Joseph Sirianni (AUS) 146, Wesley Moodie (RSA) 164, Stefano Galvani (ITA) 177, Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 192, Bjorn Phau (GER) 194, Kevin Ander-sen (RSA) 208, Jan Mertl (CZE) 210, Laurent Recouderc (FRA) 214, Gary Lugassy (FRA) 219, Daniel Brands (GER) 221, Lukasz Kubot (POL) 222, Ivo Klec (SVK) 227, Adrian Menendez (ESP) 235, Filip Prpic (SWE) 237, Thiago Alves (BRA) 238, Jan Vacek (CZE) 239, Alexander Waske (GER) 245.

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