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Singles tennis aces grab double gold at Region 5 Games
- Updated: December 10, 2014
By Mark Etheridge
in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Two more gold medals were served up by Team South Africa’s tennis players at the African Union Region 5 Games here on Wednesday morning.
Western Cape singles players Francois Kellerman and Katie Poluta were crowned Region 5 singles champions after both posting three-set victories over Malawian and Zimbabwe opponents respectively.
Second seed Kellerman beat third seed Lumeta Chisoma 6-1 2-6 6-3 while Poluta, also seeded second, overcame top-seeded Valeria Bhunu 4-6 6-2 6-4.
There were also four gold medals for Team SA at the White City Stadium on the outskirts of the city but more of that later on Wednesday.
‘I didn’t play my best tennis today, it was just one of those days,’ Kellerman told Road to Rio 2016. ‘It was frustrating missing shots by just millimetres and centimetres.
‘In the second set he started getting confident and pushed me back, especially with the new balls.’
The crucial game of the match was the eighth in the final set, a marathon affair, which finally saw Kellerman break serve with a great cross-court forehand and a 5-3 lead.
That saw him serving out the match to love and after 1hr 54min of action he was Region 5 king.
Kellerman is reigning South African Under-18 singles champ but says this means a lot more to him. ‘I came here as the underdog and did this for the team.
‘What was different here was that I was doing this for my country and not just for myself and it made me very proud to bring them a gold medal.’
Now the lanky youngster is heading home to take a week and a half break and chill out with friends at Langebaan on the West Coast.
‘Then it’s back to training with Raven Klaasen before heading off to the junior division at the Australian Open next month.’
Little Poluta was up against the tournament’s biggest name player in Bhunu but showed maturity and resolve beyond her years after losing the first set.
‘It was definitely my toughest match of the tournament. She’s a bit older than me and more experienced but after I lost the first, I decided I needed to make more balls.
‘I was down 1-4 in the final set but I think she lost a bit of concentration and I just went for it,’ said the Table View teenager, whose dad is Croatian.
‘Now I’m looking forward to going home, I’m not going anywhere for Christmas, I really love being at home.’
And after the festive season? ‘Also the Aussie Open but it’s going to be really tough there. Long term ambitions are definitely to get to the Olympics though.’
In the bronze medal play-off Team SA’s other singles girl, Caitlin Herb went down to Zimbabwean Rufaro Chirewa in three sets, 6-3 5-7 8-10.
Meanwhile the netballers came up trumps in their final pool match, beating Namibia 59-19 and setting up a Thursday final against host country Zimbabwe.
In the picture are Kellerman, Poluta and coach Thabo Mathlaela at the medal ceremony.