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Paralympian Els takes on rising star Mhlongo in Bloem
- Updated: October 3, 2016
The Bloem Open wheelchair tennis Futures tournament is under way, and plenty of experienced players advanced as the men’s and women’s tournaments diminished down to eight players apiece at the Oud Studente Tennis Club in Bloemfontein on Sunday.
It was business as usual for the top seeds, men’s No1 Leon Els from Potchefstroom and women’s top seed Mariska Venter once again made a flawless start to their Bloem Open campaign.
The country number two Els, a 2016 Paralympian and seeking a second trophy in Mangaung, began his Bloem Open title defence with a clean sweep 6-0 6-0 win over Simlindile Dingezweni to book a quarter-final round with rampant Mpho Mhlongo from Randfontein.
The 15-year-old Mhlongo was the first player to cause an upset at the tournament, overpowering the fifth-seeded Ewald Lamprecht with a stunning 6-1 6-3 win to book a spot in the last eight.
Mhlongo said he is confident going up against Els on Monday.
‘I am just going to play my best tennis, my best game,’ he said. ‘Leon is an experienced player, number two in the country, amazing fighter, amazing player, but I have enough confidence in myself that when I play my best level I can defeat him.’
Second-seed Marshall Marsh from Port Elizabeth had no problems with Vuyisani Mantshula, beating the Umtata player 6-0 6-0, who in turn had dismantled Nicolaas Otto in round one 6-3 6-0. Marsh will next play Gift Lekhanyane, who ousted seventh-seeded Ishmael Tshipuke 7-6(1) 6-3.
In the women’s event, former world number one and top-seeded Venter made it a quick one, cruising past Dipuo Molefe 6-0 6-0.
The world No31 will look to continue her dominating play against fifth-seeded Lethabo Shai, who began her nice Bloemfontein run with a 7-6 (7) 6-2 victory over Tanzanian Lucy Shirima.
Second seed Thando Hlatswayo produced a serving master-class to complete a 6-0 6-0 victory over Nsuku Ndhlovu, and book herself a spot in the quarter-final round and should meet Venter in the final if all goes according to plan.
Top junior Nokwanda Hlongwane also made short work of Thethiswa Makhanya, defeating her 6-0 6-0 to reach the last eight in Mangaung. Hlongwane will battle it out next against Lerato Mathonsi on Monday for a semi-final place.
Picture of rising star Mhlongo courtesy of Reg Caldecott