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Solid start sees Sithole safely though at SA Open

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - APRIL 06: Lucas Sithole, the third seed of South Africa in action against Heath Davidson (AUS) in the quads singles during day 2 of the ACSA SA Wheelchair Tennis Open at the Ellis Park Tennis Stadium on April 06, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images)

World No3 Lucas Sithole made a solid start to his title defence at the SA Open with a composed victory in his quads singles opener against Australian Heath Davidson at Ellis Park Tennis Stadium in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
Sithole dispatched the unseeded Davidson in 57 minutes to win in straight sets 6-0 6-2.
The South African had no idea what to expect from his first head-to-head contest against Davidson, who was out of the game for seven years.
The 28-year-old re-joined the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour after his classification came through in February and made his debut in the doubles with Sithole as his partner at the Melbourne Wheelchair Tennis Open.
The Super Series event at Ellis Park is his second start after his singles debut in the Gauteng Open, also sponsored by the Airports Company South Africa, last week.
‘Heath and I played the doubles in Australia, but you can’t judge a guy in doubles,’ Sithole said. ‘He moves quite well and he has big shots, but I prepared for that. I stayed patient and hit my targets, moving him more and forcing him to hit an extra ball so I could get the short balls that made it easy for me to put him away.’
Sithole enjoyed the work-out against Davidson.
‘A lot of the guys in the top 10 are starting to move more and it was good to play a guy like Heath to get the competitive juices flowing.’
His quarter-final clash will be against world No7 Jamie Burdekin, who sent unseeded Takahiro Koga from Japan packing 6-2 6-0. Sithole leads the Liverpool player 9-5 after beating the Englishman twice in 2015.
Fellow Brit Andy Lapthorne seeks to reclaim the title he won in 2013 and set up a quarter-final date against fifth seed Itay Erenlib from Israel when he beat South Africa’s Danny Mohlamonyane 6-1 6-2.
‘It’s always nice to get that first one under the belt,’ said the world number four. ‘Danny has improved a huge amount since I last played him and I was quite impressed. He put me under a lot of pressure and I really had to go through the gears. Credit to Danny, because I didn’t expect to have to do that in the first match.’
Lapthorne will face off against world number five Itay Erenlib from Israel, defeated Ymanitu Silva from Brazil 6-4 6-1.
‘The next one against Itay should be a good one to watch for the fans. I’ve never lost to Itay. He hits a lot of balls back and we have some real ding-dong battles with long rallies and big points.’
Newly-minted Gauteng Open champion Dylan Alcott laid a sound foundation for successive victories on South African soil when he defeated American Bryan Barten 6-1 6-3, but 2014 champion David Wagner had to put in a bit more effort to get past Greg Hasterok.
The American world number two took the first set 6-1, but his compatriot dominated the second set, forcing Wagner to fight back from 2-5 down. The number two seed won four games in a row to take the set 7-5.
Alcott will go up against eighth seed Shraga Weinberg from Israel, while Wagner will meet seventh seed Anthony Cotterill from Great Britain in the quarter-finals.
Weinberg defeated South Africa’s Bongani Dlamini 7-6 (4) 6-1 and Cotterill advanced to the quarter-finals after scoring a clean sweep against local player Queen Nhlapo.

Picture of Sithole in action on Wednesday courtesy of Reg Caldecott


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