Chanel Simmonds, Team SA’s No 1-ranked women’s tennis player, is through to the semi-finals of the African Games after seeing off Nigeria’s Barakat Quadre in Rabat on Tuesday, writes GARY LEMKE.
Simmonds freely admits that ‘it wasn’t the prettiest match to watch’, but she got the job done on another hot Moroccan day at the ONCF Club. She won 6-2, 6-2 in a fraction over an hour after finally breaking the spirit of the Nigerian teenager.
Both sets took on almost identical patterns, with the pair swapping service breaks early on. In the opening set it had been 1-1 before the left-handed South African surged into a 4-1 lead. She then dropped serve for 4-2 before breaking Quadre again and then holding out for the set.
In the second set the early break came in the first game on Quadre’s serve but again Simmonds immediately gave back the advantage, although she clicked into gear once they got to 2-2, when breaking the Nigerian and then not giving up another game on the clay.
‘The most important thing is that I won the last point of the match. This is certainly not going to go on to a YouTube highlights reel and I made some mistakes, but I’ll take the win any day and it sets me up nicely for a run at the medals,’ the 27-year-old No 2 seed said.
‘The last few months I have really put a lot into doing well here at the African Games, which means a lot to me. I love playing for my country and I am desperate to win a medal to help the team. I’m now just one match win away from a medal but I want to go all the way and I think I can.’
There were times during the match when Simmonds left the ball too short in her opponent’s court, which allowed Quadre to run around the shot and hit her favoured strong forehand, forcing Simmonds to rely on the quality of her returns to stay in the point.
With the ball sitting up on the clay, Quadre was happy to take advantage of the lack of depth and return with power. However, Simmonds, who admitted to tensing up at times, dug into her years of experience and got on top. Even if she played some of the best tennis of her match in the games from 1-1 in the first set to 4-1, once she had broken for 3-2 in the second set it was clear that she wouldn’t be pulled back.
She also had to deal with the constant shouting during points of her opponent’s support team, and it is to her credit that she didn’t allow this to lose focus on the task at hand when it could be a distraction.
And once she had a sniff of the victory she wasn’t going to let up. At the end of the day it was a third successive ‘W’ and now it really becomes a case of one game at a time.