French Open clay may have been step too far for underdone Khololwam Montsi
CAPE TOWN - The 17-year-old South African Khololwam Montsi bombed out of the French Open Junior tournament after he was defeated 6-4, 6-7 (7/4), 6-3 by Felix Gill of Britain in a second-round clash at Roland Garros on Tuesday.
The unseeded 18-year-old Gill, world-ranked 38th among the juniors, broke his opponent’s service once in each of the first two sets and had seemed well on his way to a straight-sets win.
However, Montsi fought back superbly late in the second set and after breaking serve in the 10th game, he held out to win the tiebreaker 7-4 after more than an hour and forced the match into an extra set.
Gill made light work of the third set and after 150 minutes out on the red clay, he ended the challenge of the 11th seeded South African who has a world ranking of No 13, with a 6-3 scoreline.
There was some concern in the Montsi camp going into the match because their protege had injured his groin on Monday.
However, after hard work by the physios, Montsi was declared fit to play and played with a strapped right leg.
Montsi’s fitness coach Murray Ingram was courtside for the match and felt that Montsi’s lack of time on clay was a contributing factor to his demise.
“His lack of clay court preparation was a factor,” said Ingram.
“European-based competitors have had several warm-up tournaments to prepare and it showed in their performances.
“But there is still reason for us to be proud of Kholo and he showed tremendous character when he saved the second set when it looked like the match was beyond him.
“Throughout the match, he missed a couple of chances to convert breakpoints and that counted against him in the end.
“Once he learns to convert pressure and then to stay ahead when he is on top, he can be a real threat. He has shown real growth since he toured Australia in January. He’s much stronger, physically and mentally.”