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Mathonsi, Maripa shine
- Updated: April 29, 2011
South Africa’s men’s wheelchair side have made history by reaching the semi-finals at the 27th ITF World Team Cup in Pretoria.
The sixth-seeded SA side, playing in the Men’s World Group 2 section, achieved the milestone in style with a 2-1 rubber win over the third seeds, Canada, thanks to a brilliant effort by their doubles pairing Evans Maripa and Sydwell Mathonsi who posted a thrilling 5-7 6-3 (10-2) win over Philippe Bedard and Corey Blatchford.
Earlier, South Africa and Canada had each won a singles match, which set up the doubles clash as the rubber-decider. Mathonsi could not hide his elation after the historic doubles win, which meant that country had reached the semi-finals for the first time since their debut nine years ago.
“The wasn’t the best of matches in terms of entertainment but we ultimately won the match and that was great for Team South Africa,” said Mathonsi. “It will boost the confidence in the team ahead of our semi-final match against Japan. Beating Canada is in itself an achievement and we were really playing against history so this will be one milestone Team South Africa will be very proud of.
“Now that we’ve achieved this milestone it’s just a matter of the players building for the future. We’ll be looking to all our players to improve personal performances and our performance against Canada showed that we are capable of greater things.”
However, the SA side still appeared to be up in the Pretoria clouds when they rolled onto to court for the semifinal against Japan.
In the opening singles clash, Japan’s Takashi Sanada blew away Maripa 6-1 6-2, while Mathonsi, in the after-glow of his doubles win against Canada, found the going uphill against the 7-5 6-1 winner Satoshi Saida, which saw the Japanese leap ahead 2-0 in the rubber.
South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane continues to make a name for herself in the world of wheelchair tennis and yesterday she defeated Chile’s Mantonieta Ortiz 6-7(1) 6-3 6-0 in a Women’s World Group clash. With this victory she made significant moves to a top 10 world ranking. Montjane’s teammate Rose van der Meer wasn’t quite to the task and was peppered with a show of power tennis by Chile’s Francisca Mardones, a 6-3 6-1 winner.
In a Junior Group A encounter, South Africa whitewashed their neighbours Zimbabwe 3-0.
US Men’s World Group 2 campaigners Jon Rydberg and Steve Welch overwhelmed Chile with a dashing display for a 3-0 rubber margin at the 27th ITF World Team Cup in Pretoria, South Africa, on Thursday.
The only hiccup along the way was that the all-conquering side dropped a set for the first time on their SA safari but the setback only seemed to fire Welch into all-out action.
In a quick-fire contest lasting 48 minutes Rydberg blew Cristian Aranda away with a 6-0 6-1 margin. Rydberg was into his stride at the outset and posted a steady stream of winners to either side of the court in a show of power tennis.
Welch was up next against Robins├│n M├®ndez and he needed more time to see this Chilean off after he lost the first set, mainly as a result of a spate of unforced errors.
But he bounced back in championship fashion to claim the next two sets with a fine display of all-court skills for a 4-6 6-3 6-4 win.
Welch found his range midway through the second on the back of some big serves and once he reduced the stalemate he mixed up his game┬á to keep his nose ahead in the deciding third set. At the end he set up match point with a perfectly-placed lob which must have gutted M├®ndez just moments ahead of his demise.
And that touch of Welch wizardry reduced M├®ndez to tears after the customary end-of-match handshake. “I didn’t know too much about M├®ndez but the plan was to attack the ball early,” said Welch. “After I lost the first set I decided to go for it a little more to raise my levels (of play).
“It was just a matter of managing my errors from that point onwards and he made it easier for me towards the end he made far more errors.”
Chile conceded the doubles clash, which gave the second-seeded US men more time to ponder their game plan ahead of Saturday’s final against second seeds Japan.
On the adjacent courts, the US powerhouse quad twin spearhead of Nick Taylor and David Wagner secured North American bragging rights by taking Canada’s best to the cleaners for a 3-0 whitewash. Taylor disposed of Adrian Dielemang 6-1 6-0 and Wagner rolled over Hunter with a 6-1 6-2 scoreline.
There was misery in store for the Canadians in the doubles as the Taylor/Wagner duo finally sent them packing 6-0 6-1 in under an hour.
With this win the top-seeded US secured a final berth against perennial rivals, Great Britain, the second seeds.
There was great jubilation in the US camp after Ryan Nelson recorded his first WTC victory following his 6-1 6-1 win over Argentina’s Gonzalo Pascual. This personal Nelson milestone paved the way for a 2-1 rubber win over the never-say-die South Americans.
Shelby Baron never came into her own against 6-1 6-1 winner Ezequiel Casco but it was another chance for the greenhorn to cut her teeth on the WTC stage. Baron, however, joined Nelson in the doubles contest and did their country proud as they scrambled a 6-7(1) 6-1 6-0 win over the Pascual/Casco pairing.
The two US rookies showed great composure when the pressure intensified later in the match. It also a great deal that they retained their focus and fed off each other’s inspiration as they staged a gallant, yet patient matchwinning fightback.