Now for the ladies

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

It's all systems go for the Soweto Open women's tennis tournament at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Complex in Soweto next week.

And now organisers hope tennis enthusiasts will come out in droves between April 27 and May 3.

The men's tournament ended at the same venue yesterday.

"The support we received for the men's tournament was awesome and we anticipate more backing for the upcoming event," event spokesman Marks Mokolobate said yesterday.

"We had more than 30 tennis players from around the world entertaining spectators through out the week. The tournament also served to promote the sport in the township."

The good news for tennis devotees is that the South African Tennis Association will host this tournament for a further two years.

Top seed and world number 50 Fabrice Santoro of France was declared champion yesterday after beating unseeded Rik de Voest of South Africa 7-5 6-4 in the final.

Santoro broke De Voest in the fourth and 12th games of the first set to take it 7-5. However, the 36-year-old, who added R150000 to his R100 million career prize-money over 20 years on the ATP Tour, had endured a horror first game of the match when De Voest played superbly to break the serve.

De Voest, ranked 180th in the world, tried with all his might to wrest control away from the Frenchman, who has the scalps of 17 world number ones in his racket, in vain. The second set went with serve until De Voest served to stay in the match at 5-6, but his stomach had begun to cramp due to a virus, he said later, and the Frenchman had two match points already in the back pocket before a pinpoint backhand down the line gave him the title 7-5 6-4.

In the semifinals on Saturday Santoro accounted for fourth seed Thiago Alves 6-3 7-6 (7/2) while De Voest brushed aside fellow South African Fritz Wolmarans.

Apart from the specially designed trophy by SA sculptor Des Khourie, there were 100 ATP world rankings points for the singles winners and 60 points for runnersup, plus $14400 (R129168) for the inaugural champion in this City of Johannesburg-sponsored tournament and $8480 (R76065) for the loser.