29 April 2014
South Africa’s Kgothatso “KG” Montjane and Lucas Sithole head into this week’s Airports Company South Africa (Asca) SA Open chasing a home victory after both suffered defeats in their respective finals of the Gauteng Open on Sunday.
The country’s leading wheelchair tennis stars celebrated Freedom Day by making it through to their respective quads and women’s singles finals in the Gauteng Open at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni.
Montjane put up a stiff fight before falling 4-6 6-2 6-2 to German world number one Sabine Ellerbrock, while Sithole stumbled badly against American world number one David Wagner, going down 6-2 6-1.
Despite her defeat, the greater significance of their achievements on a historic Sunday for South Africa was not lost on Montjane.
‘How things have changed’
“I always think of what Madiba did for our country and how things have changed. It means a lot that we can live together and I appreciate those who fought for it, delivered it and made peace. Today we can all live together as South Africans because of that,” she said.
Sithole, meanwhile, headed straight from the tournament to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to receive the Order of Ikhamanga Bronze from President Jacob Zuma in recognition of his outstanding achievements in wheelchair tennis, which included becoming the first African to win the US Open in 2013.
“I’m very honoured to receive this award on Freedom Day. It’s a very special moment for me,” he said.
It was another windy day on court in the finals, and the experience of the world number ones proved the key to victory.
Montjane looked poised for an upset when she took the first set off Ellerbrock. However, the German, who was nursing an arm injury, brought a more aggressive game to the final two sets.
‘I made a lot of mistakes’
“I knew it was going to be a tough match. It was great to take the first set, but Sabine came back hard in the second and I made a lot of mistakes,” Montjane said afterwards.
“There are a lot of things to take from this tournament and I’m leaving here with a lot of confidence for next week’s Airports Company South Africa SA Open.”
It was an emotional victory for Ellerbrock, who won her first ITF title in South Africa and was also on the winning women’s doubles team in the Gauteng Open. “I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and I’m looking forward to the SA Open. We’ll have two more top 10 players in the draw there, so you’ll need a bit of luck as well,” she said.
‘It’s a learning curve’
Sithole was also optimistic about turning the lessons of his defeat into a successful campaign in the Acsa SA Open. “It’s a learning curve for me and I’ve seen what I need to work on for next week’s SA Open,” he reckoned.
Wagner, who beat Sithole in the final of the Australian Open in January, but lost to the South African star in the US Open final, will also remain in the country for the SA Open as he goes in search of back-to-back titles.
‘It’s worked out so far’
“I’ve had a game plan for these two weeks and it’s worked out so far,” he said. “I obviously want to win the SA Open as well, but most importantly I want to play the best tennis I can every time I get onto the court.”
French Open champion and men’s world number two Stephane Houdet will also be chasing back-to-back titles.
Houdet won the Gauteng Open men’s singles title with a 6-2 6-2 victory over Japan’s Takashi Sanada and also claimed victory in the doubles. He will be defending the SA Open title at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.