While those matches were hard-fought, there were no upsets in the men’s draw in the first round. The unfortunate Ruan Olivier had to withdraw through injury in his match against Lawrence Kuhn, with the former trailing 2-0 at the time.
The minor upset of the night came in the women’s draw when Tayla Diepenbroek, seeded in the 9/16 group, defeated Keschia Scorgie (5/8) in three games.
For the rest it was smooth sailing, but the intensity of the tournament will move up a few levels when the quarters are played from 11.30 on Saturday. The afternoon session will start at 5pm, with the main final scheduled for Sunday at 1pm.
Maree (5/8) looked to be slipping to defeat against Zwelake Makgalamele (9/16) when he lost the fourth game and trailed 7-3 in the fifth.
Several unforced errors by Maree handed the advantage to his opponent at the start of the decider before the University of Johannesburg student pulled his game together. Eliminating mistakes and working his opponent hard, he came storming back to win eight points in a row for a 3-2 result.
Van Niekerk’s match against Nelson Mandela University No 1 Jason le Roux had all the ingredients of a thriller and the players lived up the billing.
The first two games were split – 11-3 to Van Niekerk and 14-12 to Le Roux – before Van Niekerk got his nose in front by taking the third.
However, he was beginning to show distress signals as Le Roux worked him relentlessly around the court, mixing feathery boasts with hard drives to the back.
Van Niekerk, for his part, displayed immense character and tenacity. He kept chasing the ball and when the occasion arose, he showed a delicate touch as well to play some winning drop shots.
He seemed to have it in control when he led 10-7 in the fourth, but Le Roux was indomitable in his determination to force a fifth game. He saved two match points before another lengthy rally saw Van Niekerk float up a lob which his opponent could only miscue into the tin for a 3-1 result in 60 energy-sapping minutes.
The results were:
1-Rodney Durbach bt 9/16-Robert Howarth 3-0 (12-10 11-3 11-5) 11, 9/16-Hayden Worth lost to 5/8-Makho Ntuli 3-0 (11-9 11-4 11-7), 5/8-Dewald van Niekerk bt 9/16-Jason le Roux 3-1 (11-3 12-14 11-7 11-9), 3/4-Rudi van Niekerk bt 9/16-Wayne Sithole 3-0 (11-4 11-4 11-4), 3/4-Lawrence Kuhn bt 9/16-Ruan Olivier 3-0 (11-6 11-3 5-1, Olivier retired), 5/8-Kyle Maree bt 9/16-Zwelake Makgalamele 3-2 (14-12 5-11 11-5 8-11 11-7), 5/8-Tremayne McDonald bt 9/16-Sean Bailey 3-1 (11-7 11-9 6-11 11-5), 2-Gary Wheadon bt 9/16-Tyrone Dial 3-0 (11-3 11-5 11-4)
1-Alexa Pienaar bt 9/16-Dani Shone 3-0 (11-4 11-4 11-7), 5/8-Keschia Scorgie lost to 9/16-Tayla Diepenbroek 3-0 (11-8 11-6 11-6), 5/8-Michele Kohne bt 9/16-Inge Loftie-Eaton 3-1 (11-4 11-7 7-11 11-7), 3/4-Hayley Ward – bye, 3/4-Anlen Murray bt 9/16-Bianka La Mude 3-0 (11-1 11-7 11-7), 5/8-Bongi Seroto bt 9/16-Michelle Bailey 3-1 (11-9 10-12 11-9 14-12), 5/8-Bianca Brown bt 9/16-Robyn Lodge 3-0 (11-7 11-3 11-2), 2-Lizelle Muller bt 9/16-Alison Oshry 3-0 (11-1 11-3 11-2)
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