Mixed fortunes for locals at SA Open
Twenty-three-year-old South African super server Fritz Wolmarans gambled and won when he beat France’s articulate Édouard Roger-Vasselin 4-6 6-2 6-2 in a rain-interrupted qualifying game to earn a place in the main draw of the South African Open on Monday.
But the dices were loaded against Rik De Voest, South Africa’s top-ranked player in the tournament, when he drew big-serving American fifth seed Rajeev Ram in the first round and was edged out 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-3 in a delayed night game that lasted more than two hours and produced high quality tennis for this early stage in the event.
Wolmarans had two options of gaining a place in the main draw; playing for a wild card entry by winning last week’s South African Closed title and going through the tricky route of the qualifying rounds.
But he elected to skip the South African Closed Championships and instead spend a week training with coach Pietie Norval for the qualifying rounds—and the decision effectively enabled him to hit the main draw jackpot.
The experienced Roger-Vasselin was seeded number one in the qualifying segment and Wolmarans, the son of the former Free State and Western Province rugby player of the same name, had to produce a succession of blistering serves in the vicinity of 200 kp/h to overcome an opponent who has beaten a number of the best players in the world.
The match was described laconically by one official as a “day-night game” because it started at 10 in the morning and finished in the gloom of the evening because of the persistent rain showers.
While Wolmarans demonstrated a dynamic power game and looked a good deal more formidable than his 409th world ranking, he revealed afterwards that recurring disc injuries to his back during the past year had kept him out of tournament competition for lengthy periods.
Roger-Vasselin took command of the opening set with a succession of sweetly-timed ground strokes, but Wolmarans’s power play gained him the ascendancy in the second set and he broke service early in the third set to lead 2-0 before one of the many downpours sent the players scampering from the court.
The rain played havoc with the opening day’s play in the R3,75-million ATP tournament and none of the first round games scheduled for the day session were completed before the evening.
And the feature match on the night programme in which De Voest played Ram was completed after midnight with only a sparse crowd watching the cut-and-thrust battle in chilly conditions which belied the hot stroke exchanges.—Sapa. .