Former world number one Maikel Scheffers from the Netherlands crushed South African hopes with a straight set victory over Evans Maripa in the second round of the Mens Singles of the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open in Benoni on Thursday. Maripa, the country’s number one ranked player, bowed out to the fifth seed 7-6 (5) 6-4 on a day when the seeds dominated events at the Gauteng East Tennis Centre. Despite the loss, the 24-year-old Maripa was remarkably upbeat about his performance.
Maripa says: ‘I lost 6-0 6-1 to Maikel in the Pensacola Open in the United States in March, so I am very excited that I pushed him to a tie break and stayed with him in the second set. I’m playing much better and every time you go up against a top player like Maikel, it adds to your level of experience. I know I lost the match because I lost focus and I put myself under too much pressure. Instead of trying so hard, I need to turn the pressure into positive energy. I feel good about my performance, though, and now I just want to focus on the doubles.’ Scheffers was surprised at the marked improvement Maripa showed since their last encounter. Scheffers says: ‘I think Evans is close to a breakthrough. He played some fantastic long shots on his back hand and was very aggressive. He really took me by surprise this morning. I didn’t play at my absolute best, but he was a formidable opponent. With a bit more experience, he is going to become a world class player and tough to beat.’
Scheffers will face Argentinean Gustavo Fernandez in the quarter-finals, whom he has beaten five times in eight encounters. The number two seed defeated Frenchman Frederick Cattaneo 6-4 6-4. Defending champion and first seed Stephane Houdet from France beat Takuya Miki from Japan 6-4 6-4 to join Joachim Gerard from Belgium (3), Frenchman Nicolas Peifer (4), Takashi Sanada from Japan (6), Dutchman Tom Egberink (7) and Swede Stefan Olsson (8) in the quarter-finals. With Maripa out of race for glory, it will be up to 2013 Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open champions, KG Montjane and Lucas Sithole, to fly the flag for South Africa.
Montjane barely had time to break a sweat to win her 52-minute match against fellow South African Thando Hlatshwayo 6-1 6-0. Seeded fourth, the world number nine is on the same side of the draw as Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock and is destined to meet the defending champion and first seed in the semi-final. Montjane will face American Kaitlyn Verfuerth in the quarter-finals, who needed three sets to get past Ludmila Bubnova from Russia 6-4 1-6 6-1.
Montjane says: ‘I beat Kaitlyn in three sets at the Cajun Open last month, so it’s great that I play her again. It will be good to have a tough match to prepare for Sabine. She beat me in straight sets after I made the quarter-finals in Baton Rouge, but I am definitely in better shape now. A solid performance against Kaitlyn will be a good for the confidence.’ In addition to Ellerbrock, who defeated Mariska Venter 6-3 6-0, Dutch player Marjolein Buis (2), Germany’s Katherina Kruger (3), Chilean Francisca Mardones (5), Charlotte Famin from France (6) and Miho Nijo from Japan, seeded eighth, also advanced to the quarter-finals. In the Quad Division, world number one David Wagner will go head-to-head with Greg Hasterok, the third seed, in an all-American semi-final.
Sithole, the second seed, scored a straight set victory against compatriot Queen Nlapo (6-0 6-0) to set up a clash with fourth-seeded Anthony Cotterill from Great Britain. World number four Sithole has an unbeaten record of eight victories against the Brit since their first tussle in 2010, while Hasterok has never beaten Wagner in 11 previous contests. Wagner dispatched Anders Hard from Sweden 6-2 6-0, Hasterok won in straight sets against Thomas Huguernin 7-5 6-2, but Cotterill had a real fight on his hands to defeat Itay Erenlib from Israel.
The American won the first set 7-5 (2), lost the second 5-7 and claimed the final set 6-3 for victory. Play starts at 09:00.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott