Sithole, Montjane lift Gauteng Open titles
3 May 2012
Paralympic-bound Lucas Sithole cemented his world number nine ranking with a comprehensive victory in the Men's Quads Singles final at the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open when he beat world number 10 Marco Innocenti from Italy 6-1 7-5 on Tuesday in Benoni.
Sithole said coming out on the winning side against a great strategist like the experienced Innocenti was crucial to his Paralympic preparations.
"Marco has been among the top players in the world for at least the last 10 years and he is very experienced," said the 25-year-old triple-amputee.
'A great mental challenge'
"He doesn't move much, but is such a brilliant placer of the ball, and that was a great mental challenge for me.
"I move very fast on the court, but I sometimes don't place well enough to counter a guy like that. Beating him at his own game, I feel like I now have the complete package to take to London."
Sithole, who will line up at the Japan Open in two weeks' time, is confident of a good performance in the Super Series event following his win in the Gauteng Open.
'I can challenge'
"The Japan Open will draw a lot of top seeds because it offers a lot of world ranking points," he said. "If I can maintain my current physical and mental form, I am sure I can challenge in Japan and further improve my world ranking.
"Since the start of this season, my goal has been to get to at least sixth in the world and I'm just a few spots away. That goal looks a lot more positive right now."
South African star KG Montjane also scored a memorable win in the women's singles, upsetting second-seed Sharon Walraven of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to lift the title.
Montjane is ranked eleventh in the world, while Walraven occupies ninth place in the singles and second spot in the doubles.
The Limpopo fourth seed was delighted with her victory. "I was incredibly nervous during the first set, because this was a very important match for me to win," she said. But, once we got into the second set and the crowd got behind me, I found my rhythm and I became more aggressive, taking the game to her.
"Once I had the match squared, I knew I could beat her in the third, but I had to fight some nerves again, trying to close the set.
"This has been a significant victory for me," she concluded, "in terms of the mental aspect of the game. Each time I beat a world top 10 player, I'm getting stronger mentally and they will start seeing me as a threat."
Montjane enjoyed a double victory when she and doubles partner Kanako Domori from Japan defeated Walraven and Katherine Kruger from Germany 6-2, 6-1 in the women's doubles final.
Kruger will be on Montjane's radar when she and Sithole compete in the Super Series Japan Open.
"I've shot up to 11th in the world rankings and I'm just 10 points below Kruger," she said. "I've had her number so far this season and I'm going after her in Japan.
"If I can keep this winning form going, I'll get inside the world top 10. That's my goal for the Paralympics."
In the men's singles, second seed Ben Weekes of Australia upset Japanese star Takashi Sanada, the top seed, ranked tenth in the world, 6-2 3-6 6-4 to capture his fifth international title.
Thabang Lekhanyane of Thembisa made it two in a row when he won the junior final. The top seed beat second seed Mabel Mankgele 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 in the all South African final to add the title to his Acsa SA Open victory last week at Ellis Park.
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