Despite losing the opening set to unseeded Itay Erenlib, South Africa’s Lucas Sithole danced his way to victory in the quad singles quarter-finals of the Airports Company South Africa SA Open at Ellis Park Tennis Stadium on Thursday. The world number four lost the first set, but rallied to beat the unheralded Israeli 4-6 6-4 6-1. Sithole says: ‘I told myself I needed to join the party; I also needed to dance. I never played Itay before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I took it too easy on him in the first set, but he went all-out against me. I pushed him to his back-hand, because he doesn’t have a reverse back-hand, but he hit some really good, unexpected shots. He forced me to start playing defensively, so going into the second set, I started playing my own game. He broke back when I led 3-1, but I managed to regroup, gain control and win the set.’
Sithole said he went straight back to basics in the final set. Sithole says: ‘I wasn’t worried at any stage, because I knew what I was doing wrong. I stayed relaxed. I didn’t chase and I didn’t push hard. I just kept hitting the ball away from him, because I didn’t want to waste any more energy and I won the set quickly.’ Sithole will play second seed Andy Lapthorne from England, who defeated fellow Brit and sixth seed Anthony Cotterill in straight sets 6-4 6-3.
Unseeded Ymanitu Silva from Brazil toppled fourth seed Jamie Burdekin from Great Britain 6-1 6-4 and the Brazilian will go up against top seed David Wagner, who advanced straight to the semis after fellow American Greg Hasterok withdrew from the quarter-finals due to illness. Lapthorne beat Sithole for the Airports Company South Africa SA Open title in 2013 and the South African is savouring the opportunity to return the favour. Sithole says: ‘I lost the 2013 final to Andy and the 2014 final to David, so I am going all out to pull it through this year. Losing against David in the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open final last week was a really good lesson. I made mistakes and I learned what I needed to fix. I’ve been working on some things in the last two matches this week and I will implement everything my coach and I have been practicing into the semi-final against Lapthorne on Friday.’
Katherina Kruger and Sabine Ellerbrock will go head-to-head in an all-German semi-final on the one side of the draw, while first-seed Jiske Griffioen will face last week’s Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open champion Buis. Griffioen defeated sixth-seed Francisca Mardones from Chile in 6-2 6-1, second-seed Ellerbrock dispatched Charlotte Famin from France 6-1 6-2, but fourth-seed Kruger had a tough time getting past eighth-seed Kaitlyn Verfuerth. The American won the opener 6-4, but Kruger took the second 6-4 and won the final set 6-2.
Meanwhile Takashi Sanada put on a masterclass performance in the men’s singles quarter-finals to topple second seed Gustavo Fernandez. The sixth-seed from Japan whipped the Argentinean 6-3 6-2 and will meet Nicolas Peifer from France in the semi-final after the fourth-seed Frenchman defeated seventh-seed Tom Egberink from the Netherlands in straight sets 6-2 6-2. First seed and defending champion Stephane Houdet downed eighth-seed Stefan Olsson from Sweden 6-2 6-4 to strengthen his bid for a third consecutive title at Ellis Park.
The world number two will have a chance to turn the tables on last week’s Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open winner Joachim Gerard when they meet in the semi-finals. Gerard, seeded third in the Super Series event, defeated fifth-seed Maikel Scheffers from the Netherlands 6-2 7-5.
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