18 April 2011
Izak van der Merwe went one step better than he did in 2010 when he captured the Soweto Open men’s singles title at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Jabavu after a hard-fought battle against fellow South African Rik de Voest on Sunday.
The final had been moved back a day because of rain and rain, once again, made an appearance in the final, forcing the players from the court for over two hours with Van der Merwe leading 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 3-2, and the contest on serve. Ultimately, he went on to a 6-7, 7-5, 6-3 victory.
The victory, his second in a Challenger Tour event, has lifted Van der Merwe to a career-high ranking of 134th in the world.
Last year, he made it into the final but was beaten by Dustin Brown. This time around the fourth-seed made sure of success by defeating the German 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) in a hard-fought semi-final.
It was far from an easy walk to the title for the big-serving South African who played tie-breakers in every one of his matches.
Van der Merwe began his title challenge with a tough 7-5, 7-6 win over Englishman Daniel Cox in his first round match. He followed that up by sending another Englishman packing after defeating Chris Eaton 6-4, 7-6.
In the quarterfinals, he faced seventh-seed Andrej Martin and once again it proved to be a tight contest. Van der Merwe won it 7-6, 7-6, claiming both tie-breakers 7-2.
Path to the final
On his way to the final, De Voest, the sixth-seed, recorded victories over fellow South African Raven Klaasen, Denys Molchanov, and Michal Przysiezny before facing Australian Greg Jones in the final.
It took a gritty comeback for De Voest to win a match that was interrupted by rain. When the heavens opened, he was 3-6, 4-3 down, but went on to win 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.
In the final, he became the only player in the tournament to win a tie-breaker against Van der Merwe. By reaching the title-decider, he improved his world ranking to 158th.
The women’s honours went the way of Russia’s Valeria Savinykh, who proved to be a giant killer on her way to lifting the title.
She ousted fourth-seed Eva Birnerova 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round. Then, after an easy 6-2, 6-2 win over Oksana Kalashnikova in the second round, she upset seventh-seed Corinna Dentoni 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
Savinykh followed that up by disposing of top-seed Ann Keothavong in the semi-finals when the Briton retired at 6-3, 3-0 down.
In the final, second-seed Petra Cetkovska proved no much for the 20-year-old Russian, who cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 victory and the biggest win of her career.
South African women failed to make an impact as none of the four players in the draw made it out of the first round.
Germany’s Michael Kohlmann and Alexander Peya of Austria claimed the men’s doubles title with a convincing 6-2, 6-2 victory over South African-born Australian Matthew Ebden and Germany’s Andre Bergemann.
Sadly, the women’s doubles final was a victim of the weather and was not played.
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