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SA downed by Chile at Beach Championships

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Chile proved too hot for South Africa in the final round of matches played at the ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championships in the Russian capital of Moscow at the weekend.

On a hot and sunny day with temperatures reaching 28 degrees, the fancied Chile side beat underdogs South Africa 2-1.

First up in the women’s doubles, South Africa’s Lorraine Morifi made her debut with Helga Jeske, taking on Maria Orellana Rivera and Darling Varas.

The nerves were clear in the first set, but the South Africans put up a gallant fight after being 5-0 down. They won two games in a row but still lost the opener 6-2. The Chileans proved too steady and in this case, played a very aggressive rubber and ran away winning the second set 6-2 to assure them of victory.

The South African men’s doubles combination of Ryan Brookshaw and Tucker Vorster were up next and they embraced an eagerly anticipated match against Matias Sepulveda and Pablos Rojas.

The Chileans, using hard serves and attacking play, raced to a 4-1 lead in the opening set and looked to dominate the rubber. Brookshaw and Vorster, who had become accustomed to the change in pace and the variety, regrouped and began playing good solid, basic beach tennis.

The SA pair started to make returns and set one another up well at the net, slowly clawing their way back into the opening set. The set went to the tie-breaker at 6-6 and the South Africans prevailed, winning the breaker 7-4.

The second set proved a tight affair with some exciting points and rally exchanges with the South African team fending for all they had and trying to maintain the momentum. Unfortunately, a late break of serve saw the second set sway in the favor of Chile who won it 7-5. At one set all a 10-point match tie-breaker loomed to determine the fate of this exciting rubber.

The Chileans pounced first in the breaker and went up a break of serve. But the South Africans fought back hard, swung the momentum and managed to upset the Chilean team to the final set breaker 10-7 giving them the rubber win.

As in previous ties, with the score at 1-1 it was the mixed doubles that would decide the tie.

The call was to go to the experienced South African combination of Vorster and Jeske to do duty. Sepulveda and Maria Orellana Rivera were nominated as their opponents.

South Africa started the mixed doubles well, leading 5-1. But Chile fought back with Orellana, ranked in the world’s top 60, proving a force.

However, despite the comeback, Chile could not take the lead and South Africa won the first set 6-4. In the second set, Chile found their groove and, using an attacking strategy, kept on top of Vorster and Jeske. They saved a match point on the Vorster serve at 4-5 and finally won the set 7-5.

A 10-point match tie-break would decide the tie. Chile proved too strong in the tie-breaker and did not allow the South Africans a chance. Chile won the tie-breaker 10-4, securing the rubber and a 2-1 tie victory over the brave South Africans.

As a result, South Africa finished 18th out of the 25 teams participating. They finished top of the African countries which competed at the championships, ahead of Morocco (19th) who were the ninth highest ranked team at the start of the competition and Egypt, who failed to qualify.

This means that based on the current competition acceptance criteria, South Africa should automatically qualify for the 2019 Championships by virtue of securing a top 19 finish as the top 19 teams all qualify automatically along with a wildcard to make up the 20th team, which South Africa was awarded this year. In addition, the rules also ensure that a spot in the main draw is reserved for the highest place team from the continent, which again goes in the favor of South Africa.

Team manager Iain Smith said South Africa made a big impression in Moscow. ‘A team with only three months experience has taken on some of the best teams and players in the game and have not been dominated in any of the rubbers. The team has competed and won a number of key matches. In fact, South Africa is very much the talking point around the venue.’

Smith said it was a superb performance from a young and inexperienced South African team. ‘South Africa proved to be competitive and approach each tie with true grit and determination. We’ll return home and build on what we have learned here in Moscow, and return next year to the championships with more experience and tactical knowledge as well as looking to introduce beach tennis to the junior fraternity to ensure we have both an adult and junior team representing South Africa in 2019.’

Photo: (left to right, back) Frans Ledwaba, Ryan Brookshaw, Helga Jeska, Tucker Vorster. Front: Bonnie Davidson, Lorraine Morifi, supplied

RESULTS
Chile bt South Africa 2-1

Women’s Doubles
Maria Orellana Rivera/Darling Varas (CHI) bt Lorraine Morifi/Helga Jeska (SA) 6-2 6-2

Men’s Doubles
Ryan Brookshaw/Tucker Vorster (SA) bt Matias Sepulveda and Pablos Rojas (CHI) 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 7-10

Mixed Doubles
Sepulveda/Orellana Rivera (CHI) bt Vorster/Helga Jeska (SA) 4-6 7-5 10-4


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