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