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Izak ousted in Soweto

Victory proved a bridge too far for South African Izak van der Merwe as he tumbled to a 7-6 (2) 6-3 defeat to Jamaican Dustin Brown in the final of the Soweto Open men’s singles at a sun-scorched Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre.

Sapa reports that the 26 year-old South African admitted afterwards he had felt “a little flat” after his impressive and improved form leading up to the final.

But his defeat also had a lot to do with the bursts of brilliance and stroke variety of Brown, who earned R105 000 in prize money and 110 points which will improve his 127th world ranking to near the 100 mark next week.

Unseeded Russian women’s singles winner Nina Bratchikova received R110 000 after upsetting second seeded Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand 7-5 7-6 (4).

Tanasugarn a former 20th-ranked player had led 3-0 in the opening set and then appeared to suffer after what was afterwards described as “golfer’s elbow.”

But it was the Brown-Van der Merwe battle which gripped the imagination of the enthusiastic 1,800 crowd, with the Jamaican out-serving his South African opponent and also upsetting him with subtle changes of pace and power.

The colourful 24 year-old Brown, who was born and currently resides in Germany, spent a period of 12 years in Jamaica and adorns his tennis shoes with fluorescent orange and lime laces, but it was more his torpedo-like serve, booming returns and angled chip-shots which dazzled Van der Merwe.

Brown served 11 aces to Van der Merwe’s four and used this weapon to good effect on the rare occasions he got into trouble.

The match progressed on an engrossing, relatively even keel until 6-6 in the opening set, with Brown producing a scintillating tiebreaker and taking control from this point.

The Jamaican who made Leyton Hewitt’s motivating roars of “c’mon” seem almost muted in comparison, roared like a lion every time he produced something out-of-the-ordinary — and this occurred at regular intervals.

The dreadlocked Jamaican hurled his racket towards the heavens as he completed the biggest tournament success of his career.

For all this, Van der Merwe did not disgrace himself in a match that lasted 76 minutes and, after dropping his opening service game in the second set, he came tantalisingly close to breaking back on two occasions.

What made Bratchikova’s win so auspicious in the women’s final was the fact that she was ranked a modest 172nd in the world before the tournament started – and might now move up a telling 50 places or more.

The powerful and striking Russian took full advantage of Tanasugarn’s injury and, after falling behind 3-5 in the second set, stormed into a 6-0 lead in the tiebreaker.

Bratchikova suffered a few jitters at this point as Tanasugarn clawed her way back to 6-4. But, in truth, the final outcome was inevitable at this point.


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