Dylan Alcott from Australia and Japan’s Yui Kamiji made their first appearance in South Africa a winning one, while world number one Stephane Houdet celebrated a welcome return to the winner’s circle at the Gauteng Open on Sunday.
The quads final at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex saw Alcott and Wagner meet for a second time this season since the Australian dispatched Wagner in straight sets in title defence at the Australian Open in January.
Wagner played some of his best tennis in the windy conditions and Alcott was on shaky ground when his American rival won the eighth game, broke serve in the ninth and won the first set 6-3. The 25-year-old Grand Slam champion recovered from the rocky start to win the first three games of the second set. He took the set 6-3, but forced the third set into extra time.
But Alcott was 5-2 down to Wagner in the tie break.
“I pulled a few shots out of back side to win five points on the trot,” said Alcott after winning the tie-break 7-6 (5). “Wags is really good in the wind and if you drop your level, he is tough to beat. I was a bit all over the place until two hours into the match and I was lucky to win. Really; I should have lost this one.”
Alcott will chase his second Super Series title this season at the SA Open on Tuesday, but the first thing on his agenda is a game drive on Monday.
“How can you come to South Africa without doing a game drive? To be honest, getting over the jet lag and adjusting to the altitude took a lot out of me and I feel a little ‘tennis-ed’ out,” said the world number one.
“It was something I wanted to do, though. It must be strange to see the world number one tee it up in a Level 1 International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament, but I’m really pleased that I came to play the Gauteng Open. The practice at altitude and winning in my first start has been fantastic and the points this week is a great buffer for my ranking. It’s been a great build-up and I’m confident heading to Ellis Park. I don’t have any points to defend, so I really want to make the SA Open count.”
Kamiji was delighted to claim her first women’s singles victory this season and also believes the Gauteng Open experience will serve her well in the second UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour event, sponsored by the Airports Company South Africa.
The petite 21-year-old from Akashi won the tightly contested three-setter against world number one Jiske Griffioen from the Netherland’s 6-4 4-6 6-3.
“I’m am very, very happy to win the Gauteng Open,” said Kamiji, who also partnered Marjolein Buis to victory in the women’s doubles. The pair defeated the Dutch pair Griffioen and Aniek van Koot 6-3 7-5.
“This was a great week for me, because I lost the number one ranking to Jiske last year,” Kamiji said.
“My goal this season is to get back to number one before the Paralympics and I am really glad I came out to South Africa for both tournaments. It was good to play at altitude, because it gave me time to adjust my game for the SA Open. The ball flies so fast and hard here and it was good to learn some control this week. I feel ready for next week.”
Giant-killer Alfie Hewett defeated three seeds to get to the men’s singles final, but the 18-year-old Brit ran out of ammunition against the experienced Houdet. The 2014 champion won the match in straight sets 6-3 6-3.
Meanwhile world number three junior Alwande Skhosana claimed successive victories in the boys singles and Nokwanda Hlongwane clinched the girl’s singles title.
The 15-year-old Skhosana knocked out Mpho Mhlongo 6-2 6-0 and fellow KwaZulu-Natal junior Hlongwane beat Asive Gilifile straight sets 6-1 6-3 to lift her first Level 1 ITF title.
RSA unless stated:
1-Stephane Houdet (FRA) bt Alfie Hewett (GBR) 6-3 6-3
1-Stephane Houdet (FRA)/ Stefan Olsson (SWE) bt 2-Frederic Cattaneo/ Nicolas Paifer (FRA) 6-3 6-2
2-Yui Kamiji (JPN) bt 1-Jiske Griffioen (NED) 6-4 4-6 6-3
2-Marjolein Buis (NED)/ Yui Kamiji (JPN) bt 1-Jiske Griffioen (NED)/ Aniek Van Koot (NED) 6-1 6-3
1-Dylan Alcott (AUS) bt 2-David Wagner (USA) 3-6 6-3 7-6(5)
1-Lucas Sithole/ David Wagner (USA) bt Dylan Alcott/ Heath Davidson (AUS) 6-2 6-2
1-Alwande Skhosana bt 2-Mpho Mhlongo 6-2 6-0
1-Nokswanda Hlongwane bt 2-Asive Gilifile 6-1 6-3