Leading local tennis prospects Chanel Simmonds and Nikala Scholz bombed out of the Soweto Open in the second round at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre on Wednesday – but there’s still high hopes of their future careers.
Nineteen-year-old Scholz lost 6-3 6-3 to fellow-South African Izak van der Merwe, capitulating as much as anything to his lack of competition at this level, while the 17-year-old Simmonds demonstrated her exciting potential in going down 4-6 6-3 6-1 to Mandy Minella of Luxembourg – a player seven years her senior and ranked 350 places higher in the world rankings before the tournament started, reports SuperSport.
Both Scholz, son of former Western Province rugby great Calla, and Simmonds had beaten seeds in the opening round and expectations were that they might make sensational progress towards the latter rounds of a tournament which offers R750 000 in prize money for both the men and the women, but their relatively limited experience against seasoned opponents was their undoing in a final assessment.
Simmonds, in fact, stormed into a 5-0 lead in the opening set against the lanky 24 year-old Minella and had her opponent cursing and berating herself while she hurled her racket round the court like a javelin thrower.
But although the young Johannesburg left-hander warded off a determined fightback to 5-4 by Minella to hold out for a first-set success, the writing was already on the wall as the lithe Luxembourg girl blasted booming baseline drives to both sides of the court with a barrage of lethal forehands.
Simmonds, however, expressed satisfaction with her form in the tournament and said she had come up against players of a higher level than she had met before – and under the coaching guidance of former ATP player Earl Grainger a bright future surely beckons.
Scholz started out somewhat over-ambitiously in both sets against the big-serving Van der Merwe in steamy, stifling conditions, possibly over-reaching himself while dropping early serves and always playing a catch-up game.
For the 26-year-old Van der Merwe, however, it was an impressive display of power tennis into the quarter-finals and one that augers well for his progress in this epoch-making international event in Soweto – as well as in next month’s crucial Davis Cup tie against Finland at the Groenkloof Tennis Centre in Pretoria, after participating in a couple of Future tournaments in Korea.
Meanwhile, the exodus of seeds continued in the men’s singles, with six of the top-eight rated players failing to reach the quarter-final stage following the 6-3 7-5 defeat of fourth-seeded Harel Levy by Luxembourg’s potent Gilles Muller – a player who has beaten Andy Roddick and other top performers on his day.
It was a different story in the women’s singles where top-seeded Elana Baltacha led the march of seeds into the quarterf-inals while surviving a set point in the first set before beating Kathrin Woerle of Germany 7-6, 6-2.
Van der Merwe is now the only South African remaining in Thursday’s singles quarter-finals.