JOHANNESBURG – A colossal second-set fightback from Kgothatso ‘KG’ Montjane, saw South Africa’s number one women’s wheelchair tennis player booking her spot in the semifinal of the SA Open at Ellis Park Tennis Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
After a tough battle to secure the first set 7-5 against world number six Sabine Ellerbrock, Montjane clawed her way back from 5-1 down in the second to win it in a tie-break.
That booked her a semifinal showdown against second seed Marjolein Buis of the Netherlands, who had a much easier time of dispatching SA’s Nokwanda Hlongwane, 6-0, 6-0 in her match today.
“Great tennis and an impressive performance – I’m so impressed with how I played today and didn’t even make a single silly mistake today. I’m just excited how I handled this match,” said a thrilled Montjane afterwards.
“One thing I’ve realised when I was 5-1 down was that I was losing myself but I was losing it closely – so that gave me hope that I could actually bounce back. I started to win my serve and I saw her starting to tremble so I just went for the returns. She started throwing in doubles (faults) and I just had to push her hard.
“She thought maybe I was going to break down as usual but mentally today I was strong enough. I just kept pushing myself and making sure I attacked her.”
Speaking about her semifinal clash against Buis tomorrow, Montjane added: “This victory will motivate me for the next match. I need to control my excitement right now because by the time I play the next match I need to be in a good state of mind. This match is over. I need to focus on the next one.
“I don’t like expectations. I don’t have any expectations. She’s a great player, I’m a great player. It’s going to be a competitive match and I’m ready for it.”
Ellerbrock said a neck niggle had caused havoc with her serve but wished Montjane well in the rest of the tournament.
“I’m happy for KG and hope she can come back into the top eight in the world. It’s always good as a home favourite if there are South African players still in the tournament so I hope she can win the next one as well. I think this match today will give her some confidence,” said Ellerbrock.
It was a good day all round for SA’s top players with quads number one Lucas Sithole booking his semifinal spot with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Michael Mahlanya earlier in the day.
Fellow SA number one Evans Maripa also had no trouble in winning his opening match against Ishmael Tshipuke 6-0, 6-0.
“I’m very pleased with the way I played. I wouldn’t say it was easy. Every round is difficult. I just had to make sure I stuck to my plan and make it happen,” said Maripa afterwards. The Limpopo star will now face world number one Stephane Houdet of France in the semifinal. Houdet defeated Mpho Mhlongo 6-0, 6-0 today.
“It’s going to be a challenging match. I’m looking forward to it. I believe I’m very ready. We’ll see tomorrow though because I don’t want to say too much about the match before I even play it,” said Maripa.
“It’s not going to be given to him and it’s not going to be given to me. I’m going to have to work for it but I’m ready for the challenge tomorrow. The way I’m playing at the moment I’m very confident.” he added.
Meanwhile, in other matches played at the Ellis Park Tennis Stadium today, there was plenty of success for the international competitors as Gordon Reid (GBR), Nicolas Peifer (FRA), Alfie Hewett (GBR), Stefan Olsson (SWE) and Yohinobu Fujimoto (JPN) all recorded victories with Mayenzeke Gwija the only other South African to progress in the men’s draw.
In the women’s draw, Dutchwoman Diede de Groot defeated Lucy Shuker of Britain 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 while her compatriot Aniek van Koot also progressed, with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Charlotte Famin of France.