LUCAS SITHOLE FALLS AT FIRST HURDLE IN ITALY
South African two-time Grand Slam champion and world number 6 Lucas Sithole was knocked out of the Sardinia Open, falling 2-6 6-3 1-6 to world number 40 Sam Schroder from the Netherlands in his opening match on Thursday in Italy.
The triple amputee from Newcastle in Kwazulu-Natal had a poor start but improved in the second set, coming to the net more often to bag the set 6-3, but Schroder who was in imperious form found his momentum again to seal the deciding set.
Sithole, who was playing the Dutch 18-year-old for the third time, defeated Schroder in the 2017 Toyota Open in France but lost to the Dutchman in the British Open Consolation earlier this year after Sithole retired while 4-2 down in the opening set due to illness.
But there were no such problems for promising quad player Donald Ramphadi and 2018 US Open semi-finalist Kgothatso Montjane who both cruised through to the semi-final round of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) level 1 tournament in Alghero.
Ramphadi, who remains the only South African hope in the quads event had little trouble in reaching his first ITF 1 semi-final, seeing off fourth seed and world number 15 James Shaw 6-3 6-2.
“It wasn’t an easy match, James Shaw was playing really well, but I was a better and stronger player during the match,” said the 25-year-old Ramphadi.
Ramphadi will next face a tough opponent in second seed and world number 4 Sugeno Koji from Japan in the last four. The Japanese knocked out some of the world’s top players including world number 1 American David Wagner earlier this year in the semi-final round of the BNP Paribas Open de France.
The 37-year-old has also defeated former world number 2 Sithole in all their three encounters this year.
“Sure, Sugeno is a great player and it’s going to be tough playing him tomorrow. But I am going into the match as an underdog, so I have nothing to lose but prove myself. I will just go have fun and minimize errors,” added Ramphadi.
In the women’s event, top seed Kgothatso Montjane continued her winning streak in the tournament, edging out Charlotte Famin, seeded 5, from France in straight sets 6-4 6-1. Next up for Montjane is her biggest rival Marjolein Buis from the Netherlands in the semi-final round.
The 32-year-old Montjane won only one match against the Dutch world number 9 in their 28 encounters, so Friday’s match will be another whopper for Montjane.
But the left-hander from Seshego in Limpopo has improved in every tournament in 2018, making it to the semi-final round of the US Open and Wimbledon and reaching her career high ranking of 5 in the world.