On a day of major upsets, South Africa’s Kgothatso ‘KG’ Montjane toppled first seed Sabine Ellerbrock to join compatriot Lucas Sithole in the Sunday’s finals at the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open, while Frenchman Nicolas Peifer and Joachim Gerard from Belgium dispatched the top two seeds in the men’s singles semi-finals in Benoni. After 12 losses to the world number four, Montjane found the strategy and mental aptitude to ditch the underdog tag and handed the defending champion her marching orders in dramatic style at the Gauteng East Tennis Centre. The world number nine fought back from 3-1 down in the first set to win five games in a row to take the set 6-3 and then held her nerve to defeat the German in a second set tie break 7-6 (3) to book her place in Sunday’s final.
The South African will face world number six Marjolein Buis in the final after the Dutch second-seed whipped Charlotte Famin from France in straight sets 6-0 6-2. Montjane, the champion in 2012 and 2013, was thrilled to line up her third title challenge in this event. Montjane says: ‘Beating Sabine gets a massive monkey off my back. After losing to her in the quarter-finals of the Cajun Classic last month, I took a long look at why she always beats me. I changed my strategy for this match and I am happy that it paid off, because it gives me a lot of confidence against Marjolein. They both move really well and always force me on the defensive, so I attacked with a lot of long shots and I used the altitude to pepper her with high shots and she struggled to return them. Mostly, I didn’t let her distract me and that pulled it. Even when I got tight in the second set, I just kept focused. She is a real fighter and I wasn’t surprised when she fought from 1-4 down to level the set. That’s the way she plays, but I never allowed her to take control.’
Meanwhile Joachim Gerard and Nicolas Peifer delivered more shocks on the day. Gerard got the better of his regular double’s partner, Frenchman Stephane Houdet, in his debut in the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open. The 26-year-old dispatched the number one seed and defending champion 7-5 6-3.
Peifer shocked second seed Gustavo Fernandez from Argentina in straight sets 6-4 6-1. Gerard will be the favourite heading into the 20th head-to-head clash against Peifer, having beaten the Frenchman 14 times in 19 previous encounters. On Friday, Montjane was court side to cheer on world number four Sithole, who won his quad singles semi-final against fourth-seed Anthony Cotterill from Great Britain.
Not surprisingly, Sithole returned the favour and added his voice to the chorus of local fans who cheered Montjane on to victory. Sithole says: ‘Now we are both just one match away from winning our first tournaments of the year. We will both face tough opponents, but it is fantastic to have two South Africans in the finals. Win or lose, this is an ITF Grade 1 UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour tournament, so we both will earn good points for making the finals. That will definitely boost both our world rankings and it gives us great confidence ahead of the Super Series Airports Company South Africa SA Open next week.’ The men’s singles final will start at 09:00, followed by the women’s singles and quad singles finals.