9 June 2014
Unseeded Nikala Scholtz and Ilze Hattingh flew the South African flag high at the Sun City Futures 2 event on Saturday by winning the men’s and women’s singles titles respectively.
Futures tournaments are part of the International Tennis Federation’s Pro Circuit and the first level of professional play, just below the ATP Challenger Tour. They’re a crucial stepping stone for many players aiming for careers on the ATP and WTA World Tours.
Scholtz beat his close friend and doubles partner Tucker Vorster, the second seed, 6-4 6-3 in the men’s final.
It was a second Futures title for Scholtz, who has just ended his US College Scholarship at the University of Mississippi.
‘I had to adapt’
He jetted into South Africa late last week from the USA. “Flying in from America was tough as I had to adapt to the high altitude and winter conditions, but as the tournament got longer I played better,” said Scholtz after securing the title.
“It was one of those days everything I tried worked for me,” said Scholtz. “I was anticipating Tucker’s serves well. I guessed and played the big points well too. That made the difference I think.
“I returned real solid. In fact, I played a solid match, [with] few unforced errors. Overall I was on song. It was my best match all week.”
In the women’s singles, it took South African junior Ilze Hattingh one hour and 20 minutes to capture her first ever Futures title. The 18-year-old Pretoria-based player upset second seeded Clothilde de Bernardi of France 6-1 6-3 in the final.
Admittedly de Bernardi carried a hip strain injury into the title-decider, but all credit to Hattingh for keeping her composure and focus and dominating the final.
“I was happy with my game, but felt I held back a bit, maybe because of nerves. It was my first final since the Junior Nationals last year, so I was kind of tentative out there.
“I was keeping pressure on Clothilde because I know she has a good forehand and I didn’t want her to get into any rhythm with her forehand. But I think I played a great game, not only today in the final but all week. I am really chuffed with the win,” said Hattingh.
A visibly disappointed de Bernardi said she was “frustrated” and “hurting badly” after the final. “My right hip has been giving me so much trouble. I am playing my first tournaments in four months at Sun City after sustaining the injury and it’s not better. I was hurting badly out there and just could not play the game I normally play and move like I normally do around the court,” she explained.
For Hattingh, it was an amazing week. She won the title without dropping a set and also saw off top seed Chanel Simmonds. She also defeated third seed Madrie Le Roux, her doubles partner, in the semifinals on Friday.
‘It’s been a real good week’
“Yes, it’s been a real good week,” she said. “I have played well, had some luck, but these are the weeks you work so hard for. I’m glad I am over my injury and back in form.”
Scholtz added a second title when he won the doubles with Tucker Vorster. The third seeds defeated fourth seeds Mark Fynn of Zimbabwe and Damon Gooch of South Africa 6-3 6-4 in the final.
The women’s doubles title went to second seeds Agata Baranska of Poland and Stephanie Kent of the USA who were given a walkover after Madrie Le Roux fell ill, forcing Le Roux and her partner Ilze Hattingh, seeded fourth, to withdraw from the final.
The final Futures 3 tournament starts on Monday, 9 June, with the finals scheduled for Friday, 13 June.