Sithole ‘overcomes challenges’ to keep SA trophy at home


JOHANNESBURG – South African wheelchair tennis ace Lucas Sithole accomplished his mission to keep the SA Open trophy in the country by beating Israel’s Itay Erenlib 6-2 6-4 in the quads final at the Ellis Park Tennis Stadium on Friday.

The match, which began on Thursday, was postponed to Friday morning because of persistent rain.

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South Africa’s Lucas Sithole in action during the quads singles final against Itay Erenlib on Friday. Photo: Reg CaldecottLucas Sithole after winning the SA Open. Photo: Reg Caldecott

And with Sithole 6-2 3-0 up when the rain halted play on Thursday, it seemed things might be a bit of a formality on Friday.

Erenlib fought his way back to level the second set at 3-3, however, but with his eyes firmly on regaining the title he last won in 2015, Sithole slowly took back control, winning the next two games and eventually the championship.

“I’m very happy with the way I played from the first match to the last one,” he said afterwards.

“There were a lot of challenges in most of the matches, but I’m glad I could overcome them and keep the trophy at home.

“Yesterday was good. I played my best tennis until the rain stopped us. Then this morning, Itay played very solidly. He kept hitting on the forehand side until he was 3-3. That’s when I needed to start playing my own game and once I did that, it was easy.

“It was important for me to win as I got a lot of rankings points, and will maybe jump to number three in the world next week Monday, so it was a good opportunity for me, which I grabbed with both hands.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Sithole said there are still aspects of his game he needs to work on. “I think the most important thing I need to work on is my movement. I think I’m getting a little bit fat,” he quipped.

“This brings a lot of confidence because there’s still a long way to go in the season. I have the Japan Open and the Korea tour and France coming up, so winning today is going to give me that confidence going forward to the next tournaments.

“I just need to play my game and make sure I win the last point of the match.”

In the men’s singles final, it was victory for Sweden as Stefan Olsson claimed his first ever SA Open title – and also his first ITF Super Series win.

Olsson dominated from start to finish to beat Paralympic champion Gordon Reid of Britain 6-4 6-2.

An ecstatic Olsson said afterwards: “It’s wonderful, hard to describe at the moment – the feeling is overwhelming. I’m really happy that I have been able to play this well all week.

“I’m playing really solidly and I thought I did really well in making his best shots look like I could do it even better. Today, my game plan was totally perfect.

“The confidence is so high – I can’t really believe it and I’m playing my best tennis ever at the moment. Hopefully I can keep it up,” added Olsson, who will now play the French Championships before heading to the World Team Cup in Italy.

Meanwhile, in the all-Dutch showdown for the women’s singles title it was Diede de Groot who emerged as another first-time champion.

De Groot defeated teammate Marjolein Buis, who tweaked a back muscle during the match, 6-1 6-0 to lift the SA Open trophy.

The duo then teamed up and went on to win the women’s doubles title, beating Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany and Charlotte Famin of France 6-4 6-2 in the final.

“This is my first Super Series title, so that is a very good thing,” said De Groot afterwards. “I started a bit nervous – it’s a Super Series final, so there are a lot of things going on in your head.

“But I tried to stay focused and from 1-0 down I didn’t lose a game, so that was great.

“You always want to end the tournament with another win of course, so to win the doubles as well and finish with two titles is so good and makes me really happy to come back again,” she added.

Wheelchair Tennis South Africa
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