Britain’s Gordon Reid was the biggest name to fall in the quarter-finals of the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open on Friday, while South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane remains on track to defend her title. The second-seeded Reid, ranked third in the world in the men’s singles, was beaten 6-4 6-4 by world number 10 Nicolas Peifer of France at the Gauteng East Tennis Centre. When asked what went wrong in the match, Reid simply said, “Everything”.
While Reid admits his own game was way below par, he couldn’t quite understand how Peifer managed to beat him playing equally scrappy tennis on the day. “Pretty much everything was wrong with my game, but I don’t feel he played particularly well to beat me. I struggled with the altitude and the ball flying off the racquet. That made me a bit hesitant out there,” said Reid. And even Peifer wasn’t sure how he managed to win this one.
“It was a good win, but a strange one,” said Peifer. “I don’t think either one of us really played our best tennis. There was no rhythm to the match and a lot of unforced errors on both of our parts.” Both players had very low first serve percentages, but it cost Reid the most. “I lost my serve early in both sets, which meant I was never really able to get in front,” Reid said.
It was clearly a major victory for Peifer and his plans to break into the top seven in the world, which qualifies him for the Grand Slams. Peifer will next face Japan’s Takashi Sanada, who beat Frenchman Frederic Cattaneo 6-2 6-7 6-4. It was largely a day of first set struggles for the top seeds.
South Africa’s Montjane came up against France’s Charlotte Famin for the first time in her career, and was initially rattled by her opponent’s game. “It was a tough start. I saw her come to the net so much and it confused me because she was very quick,” she said of her fight to win the first set 7-5. “I’ve never played her before so it was a matter of me just staying back and watching her game a bit. I took my time and focused on each point. After figuring out her style I was able to play my own game. When I put pressure on her she started to make a lot of mistakes, and I came back strong in the second set,” she said, taking the set 6-2 for the win.
Montjane comes up against Britain’s third-seeded Lucy Shuker in the semis. World number one and top women’s singles seed Sabine Ellerbrock also seemed out of sorts in her 6-4 6-1 victory over Francisca Mardones. “I really struggled to get my rhythm going. Only when we were 4-all in the first set did I start to feel like I was getting in the match a bit,” she said.
Ellerbrock has also struggled with the faster game at altitude, “It’s hard because your timing has to be really good and you have to hit the ball early. But it’s the same for everyone.” Ellerbrock now faces fellow German Katherina Kruger. French men’s singles top seed Stephane Houdet also had to pull himself back from a near first-set defeat in his quarterfinal against Tom Egberink of The Netherlands.
Down 5-4 in the first set, Houdet fought back to win it 7-5 and then took the second set 6-0. “I wasn’t focused enough, but when I was 5-4 down that got my focus back. I was watching the other courts and thinking about the scores. So being down was good to get my focus back,” said Houdet. The Frenchman will need his focus early on in the semi-finals, where he faces Japan’s Takuya Miki, who beat France’s David Dalmasso 6-3 6-1. The last time the two met was in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, which Miki won 6-1 6-2.
“It will be a tough match,” Miki said of their looming semi-final. “You can’t afford to make any mistakes against Stephane.” In the quads doubles, the strong pairing of American David Wagner and Canadian Sarah Hunter overpowered Lucas Sithole and Jamie Burdekin 6-1 6-2 to reach the final, where they will face Greg Hasterok and Antony Cotterill. Houdet and Frederic Cattaneo are through to the men’s double final after beating Leon Els and Gordon Reid 6-2 6-3, setting up a clash with Egberink and Peifer after their 6-2 7-5 6-2 victory over Japan’s Miki and Sanada.
The women’s doubles still has a strong South African presence. Rosalea Van Der Meer and Mariska Venter face a tough semi-final against Ellerbrock and Shuker, while Montjane and Chile’s Mardones take on Germany’s Kruger and Famin of France.
Photo credit: Kgothatso Montjane