SA's last hope blown away
Johannesburg - A Tapei tornado by the name of Yen-Hsun Lu blew South Africa's last representative out of the singles in the R3.75m South African Open at a rain-swept Montecasino on Thursday evening.
But the pulsating second round game, in which the diminutive, 125th-world ranked Lu beat Raven Klaasen 6-4 7-5, must rank as probably the best and most competitive battle of the tournament thus far.
Ultimately Lu bewitched his South African opponent with an endless stream of telling groundstrokes in a game that was scheduled to be played in what was initially a sweltering, steamy afternoon, but eventually provided cold comfort for the local consumption.
To his credit, however, the 375th-ranked Klaasen, who gained a wild card entry into the tournament by virtue of his victory in the recent South African Closed Championships, put up a gutsy and gallant performance against the seventh seed, broke back to level at 4-4 in the second set and had three break points at 5-4 that came within a whisker of levelling the match.
But the relentless power and consistency of Lu from the baseline had a damaging effect in much the same way as a boxer bullying his opponent into submission with an endless stream of punches.
Revealing that he had given himself the nickname of Randy - because his English teacher could not pronounce his proper name - Lu said he had adjusted his timing and control by changing to a slightly tighter-strung racket in the early stages - "and everything seemed to go well after that."
Earlier, the second seed and 18th-ranked world player, David Ferrer, had predictably beaten qualifier Filip Prpic 6-3, 6-4 to enter the quarterfinals - but not before smashing his racket into smithereens after dropping a service game in the second set.
However, Ferrer, a beaten semifinalist at Montecasino last year, said he was happy with his form generally and hoped to go one step further in his bid to regain a place among the world's top 10 players.
Somdev Devvarman, another player with happy memories of South Africa after spearheading India to success in last year's World Group Davis Cup play-off at Ellis Park, again demonstrated his considerable promise with a comfortable 6-4 6-1 win over Brazilian Thiago Alves that earned him a quarterfinal match-up against Ferrer.
Men’s Second Round Singles:
Somedev Devvarman (IND) bt Thiago Alves (BRA) 6-4 6-1
David Ferrer (ESP) bt Filip Prpic (SWE) 6-3 6-4
Yen-Hsun LU (TPE) bt Raven Klaasen (RSA) 6-4 7-5
Gael Monfils (FRA) bt Josselin Ouanna (FRA) 6-4 7-5
Men’s Second round Doubles:
Eric Butorac (USA)/ Rajeev Ram (USA) bt Prakash Amritraj (IND)/ James Cerretani (USA) 6-4 7-6(6)
Rohan Bopanna (IND)/ Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi (PAK) by default Johan Brunstrom (SWE)/ Jean-Julien Rojer (AHO) 3-6 6-3 0-0 (disqualified)
Steve Darcis (BEL)/ Xavier Malisse (BEL) bt Sanchai Ratiwana (THA)/ Sonchat Ratiwana (THA) 3-6 6-4 10-8