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Locals come out swinging
- Updated: April 13, 2010
Local wild cards Chanel Simmonds and Nikala Scholtz both downed seeds while unseeded Swede Filip Prpic knocked off another highly fancied player as the first round of the $200 000 Soweto Open men’s and women’s tournaments got under way at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre on Monday.
SuperSport reports that another local, Izak van der Merwe, also advanced to the second round but fellow countryman Raven Klaasen suffered a heartbreaking defeat.
It was young Simmonds, 17, who started the trend when she stunned third seed Klara Zakopalova 6-1 3-6 7-5 in an outcome that reduced the talented Czech to tears at the end.
Simmonds’ familiarity with playing at altitude worked in her favour in the first set as the silky smooth, flowing strokes of Zakopalova were constantly hit too long and she appeared rattled by the adjustment she was forced to make. Once she had got out of her comfort zone and embraced the challenge, the Czech came back strongly in the second set.
Serving for the match in the 10th game of the third, Zakopalova appeared well on her way to advancing to the second round, but the home-schooled Kempton Park girl, who is completing grade 12 this year would have nothing of it. Simmonds, the country’s number one junior, broke back for 5-5, held her serve and broke the third seed once again, needing just one match point to close it out.
“These hard courts are very fast and my favourite is clay, but I adjusted well tactically at each key phase of the match and feel I have the confidence now to go further in this tournament,” said Simmonds, who in January won the SA Closed Championship at her first attempt.
Simmonds only got back from Egypt Sunday night, having won one of the two $10 000 tournaments she played there ahead of the Soweto event, where a total $200 000 in prize-money is on offer for the men and women.
Then Scholtz blasted No 8 Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands off the court with a high percentage of his blistering first serves finding their mark, to the point where the Dutchman didn’t even bother to try and combat his opponent’s sizzling ace that won the match 6-3 6-2.
Just turned 19, Scholtz was SA’s top junior last year and ranked 22nd in the world at that level at one point, claiming the scalps of the world’s top five youngsters during that period.
“I’m over the moon, as I’ve earned my first ATP Tour points after coming so close to qualifying for the main draw at the SA Tennis Open,” the ice-blonde Scholtz said. “I have realised that you only get a limited number of chances at this level and you have to take them.”
His next destination, he revealed, could be a brief spell at a college in the United States where the facilities were impeccable and he could polish his game against constantly tough opposition.
The highest seed to bite the dust was second-seeded Karol Beck of Slovakia who went down surprisingly tamely in a 6-2 6-4 defeat against Sweden’s Filip Prpic.
Prpic is ranked 325th in the world against Beck’s 78th and only barely scraped into the draw as an automatic acceptance, but he was in control from the outset after breaking service twice in the opening set.
South African Izak van der Merwe had too much power and experience for fellow-South African wild card Ruan Roelofse and rattled up a comfortable 7-5 6-3 victory and now comes up against the exciting Scholz in the second round.
Klaasen suffering a heartbreaking 6-2 7-6 (7-4) defeat against Hollander Raemon Sluiter in spite of a brave fight-back after dropping the first set and trailing early in the second set.
On Tuesday, the South African focus will be on the match between SA’s Rik de Voest against Harel Levy of Israel.