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Mathonsi gives SA hope

The Dutch celebrated South Africa’s Freedom Day in style as their men’s and women’s teams crushed their opponents on the third day of the 2011 ITF Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup, in Pretoria, on Wednesday.

The Netherlands top seeds overwhelmed eighth seeds Poland 3-0 in their men’s World Group 1 clash and their women, who headed the seeding in the Women’s World Group, did likewise against the Korea Republic.

In the Men’s World Group 2 competition, Japan and USA opened their bids to gain promotion back to the elite set of nations with 3-0 wins over Sri Lanka and Israel respectively.

South Africa’s Men’s World Group 2 team, seeded sixth, were up for a fight in their tie against third-seeded Canada. The Canadians moved in with Philippe Bedard leading the charge against SA’s Evans Maripa. Maripa took fright and double-faulted in his opening service game and was never able to recover from this setback. He suffered the same fate again in his third service game and he gifted the set 6-2 on a platter to the Canadian.

Maripa raised his hopes briefly in the next set when he broke Bedard in the fourth game of the next set but that was the last of his heroics as the Canadian broke back in the seventh and ninth games for a 6-2 6-4 match winning scoreline.

In a late afternoon showdown, Sydwell Mathonsi brought some cheer to the SA camp when he produced a spirited performance to defeat Canada’s Yann Mathieu 7-5 6-0, which reduced the tie to a 1-all stalemate. The doubles encounter will be played on Thursday.

In their other encounters the South African contingent suffered heavy losses. The week’s grind is clearly taking its toll as the local teams failed to win a rubber and their lone match win came after Great Britain defaulted in the quads doubles after their management said their players were taking strain after battling with stomach illness.

Britain started off on a winning note despite a valiant fight by Lucas Sithole who captured the second set after Jamie Burdekin emerged victorious 7-4 in the first-set tie-break. However, Sithole who had shown excellent form earlier in the week, failed to sustain his charge in the deciding set and Burdekin clinched the match 7-6(4) 2-6 6-4.

In the other singles match, Britain’s Antony Cotterill made light work of his clash against David Mathebula and won easily 6-1 6-1. Britain decided against playing the doubles match but still emerged 2-1 victors in the rubber.

In the Junior Group A clash, the Spanish Armada moved in with a vengeance and moved down the SA challenge 3-0. Roberto  Chamizo defeated Gift Thabang Lakhanyane 6-0 6-0 and Donald Ramphadi enjoyed the dubious distinction of winning at least one game against Daniel Caverzachi who won 6-1 6-0 to give the Spanish a 2-0 lead in the rubber. In the doubles clash, the Spanish found the going plain-sailing en route to a 6-0 6-0 win.

The all-conquering wheelchair quad triumvirate of David Wagner, Nick Taylor and Bryan Barten kept the US flag flying on a day when illness depleted America’s ranks. Sweden became their latest victims as the quads ran out yet again 3-0 rubber winners.

An upset stomach restricted Taylor to spectator’s role but Bryan Barten stepped into his shoes with aplomb and the US quads side, after three rubbers, have yet to surrender one set. Barten posted a 6-3 6-2 win over Christer Jansson after a tentative start which saw him drop service in the third game and trailed 1-2.

He showed composure to wage a patient fightback as the set wore on. The ploy worked well as he broke back in the fourth and later again in the eighth ahead of a 6-3 first-set win.

Jansson started off well enough by holding serve and then breaking in the next game. However, he was rendered helpless as his 2-0 lead disappear into the Pretoria skies after Barton bounced back in spectacular fashion to win the next six games on the trot for a 6-3 6-2 victory. Wagner came down hard on Anders Hard but then switched to cruise-control mode en route to a 6-4 6-1 win.

Sweden brought in fresh legs, or wheels rather, when Marcus Jonsson teamed up with Hard for the doubles tie.
The Barten/Wagner pairing still proved far too strong as they cantered to 6-4 6-1 win.

The sheer weight of the US duo Jon Rydberg/Steve Welch proved overwhelming as Israel suffered a 3-0 tie loss.
Rydberg was absolutely unstoppable against Israeli Haim Lev and won comfortably 6-1 6-3, and Steve Welch brushed aside a late show of resistance from Asaaf Stokol before he posted a 6-3 7-6 (8) win.
Rydberg and Welch seemed to enjoy the Israeli challenge in the doubles clash and there were times when their accuracy went awry. The result was that on occasions they were pushed to hold serve but they emerged unscathed from their 6-3 6-2 triumph.

The US women came to grief in their match against Great Britain, the eventual 3-0 tie winners. The problems struck long before the team reached the courts when Kaitlyn Verfuerth was laid low by a stomach illness. Dana Mathewson made it on to the court but was overcome by illness and retired in the first set against Louise Hunt, who led 5-4 at the time. Emmy Kaiser was up for the fight against Jordanne Whiley but she ran out of gas in the third set with the Brit winning 6-3 2-6 6-3.

Sadly, America had run out of troops as the doubles clash came up and the Brits enjoyed a walk-over for sign off their 3-0 tie win.

The US juniors were poised for a good start in their Group A clash against The Netherlands as Ryan Nelson made all the early running against Florian de Boer, the eventual 7-6 (3) 6-1 winner.

At one stage Nelson seemed to have the first set well in his grasp with a 5-2 lead but he allowed the Dutchman back into the match. Losing the set seemed to drain Nelson’s resolve and it was reflected in the second-set 6-1 scoreline.

Next up rookie Shelby Baron brought the Dutch to book by posting a highly credible 6-0 6-4 win over Rody de Bie and the tie was delicately poised at 1-all when the doubles got under. Kate Stuteville teamed up Nelson and De Boer was joined Diede de Groot and two sets later each side had lifted a set, which brought the dreaded tie-break into play. This time there was no stopping the Dutch who emerged 2-1 tie victors courtesy of their 6-4 4-6 (10-6) doubles conquest.


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