Ten­nis feast for lo­cal fans as big hit­ters fly in for Open

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - GRANT WIN­TER

THE “Sold Out” signs will be out­side the 2,500-seater Cen­tre Court at Mon­te­casino next week­end, an in­di­ca­tion that if good ten­nis is served up, the fans will flock to see it.

The South African Open be­gins on Mon­day and al­though Roger Fed­erer, Andy Mur­ray and Rafael Nadal won’t be here, there are still enough qual­ity play­ers in the 32-man line-up to draw the crowds.

“Look, we fought for three years to get the SA Open back (on the world cal­en­dar) and the slot the ATP gave us is the week af­ter the Aus­tralian Open and we can’t change that,” said tour­na­ment di­rec­tor and Ten­nis SA CEO Ian Smith this week.

“Clearly, a lot of the top play­ers want a break af­ter two hard weeks of a Grand Slam so it’s un­der­stand­able we don’t get the very best. That’s just the way it is.

“But last year (when the SA Open re­turned to the main ATP Cir­cuit) was a big suc­cess, and I think it’ll be even bet­ter this time be­cause we’re more ex­pe­ri­enced at run­ning the event and we’ve got a few new in­no­va­tions – like a Ladies Day next Wed­nes­day.”

As an aside, the ladies might just be in­ter­ested in watch­ing Feli­ciano Lopez, a tall, hand­some Spa­niard who has done some part-time mod­el­ling.

He also has one of the fastest serves in the game. Ac­cord­ing to ten­nis.info, he once sent down an ace at an as­ton­ish­ing 265km/h, just a tad slower than Andy Rod­dick, who is cred­ited with the fastest serve ever.

French­man Jo-Wil­fried Tsonga won’t be back to de­fend his ti­tle, as he’s been told by his ad­vis­ers his body needs a rest.

But the ti­tle could again fall to a French cav­a­lier as Gael Mon­fils (world rank­ing 13) will in all prob­a­bil­ity be top seed, with fel­low Tri­col­ors Jeremy Chardy, Marc Gic­quel and Florent Serra also ex­pected to be seeded in the sin­gles.

The next high­est ranked player is Spain’s David Fer­rer, cur­rently 17th in the world but once as high as No 4, and a man who has beaten Nadal and Rod­dick be­fore.

The two South African wild cards are Rik De Voest and Izak van der Merwe while a third lo­cal player will to­day earn a place in the main draw when Raven Klaasen and Nikala Scholtz meet in the fi­nals of the SA Air­ways Na­tion­als in Jo­han­nes­burg, with the win­ner ad­vanc­ing.

SA Open qual­i­fy­ing takes place this week­end with the tour­na­ment proper start­ing on Mon­day.

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