WATERSHED MOMENT FOR LOCAL TENNIS EVENTS

Johannesburg, South Africa – The annual Mahikeng Tennis Open, popularly termed “The African Grand Slam” has teamed up with the Wilson 100 000 Challenge in an exciting tennis moment for South Africa.

Now in its fourth year, the Mahikeng Tennis Open will be awarding 6 wild cards (4 x men and 2 x women) to its participants to get direct acceptance into the Wilson 100 000 Challenge in May and also give a 40% discounted entry fee price to anyone wishing to play the 100 000 Challenge event.

In order for players to qualify for the discounted entry fee, players have to create a profile in the Tennis South Africa (TSA) online site and also play the Mahikeng Tennis Open.

“Such collaborations seek to increase participation across the board and furthermore foster cooperation between events” stated TennisLabSA’s Chief Executive Officer, Siyabulela Nkachela.

“This is one of many initiatives agreed to by Tennis LabSA, TSA and the Wilson SA in order to make tennis accessible and comprehensive.”

Mozambican Fed Cup player, Marieta Nhamitambo and the Botswana Davis Cup team have confirmed their entries for the tournament this weekend.

The Mahikeng Tennis Open will be played from Friday, 28 April with the finals scheduled for Monday, 01 May 2017 at the Sandton Sports Club in Johannesburg. There will be R23 000 prize money up for grabs.

The tournament’s entry fee is R350.00
To enter contact Siya Nkachela on 083 958 2839 or email nkachela@gmail.com


DRAW MADE FOR 2017 FED CUP BY BNP PARIBAS EUROPE/AFRICA ZONE GROUPEVENT

Siauliai, Lithuania – The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has announced the official draw for the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 event taking place from 19-22 April 2017

The four day event will be played in Siauliai, Lithuania at the Siauliai Tennis School.

The eight nations contesting the Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 event are hosts Lithuania, Denmark, Egypt, Luxemburg, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and South Africa. All nations contesting the Zone Group 2 event will be bidding to qualify for the Fed Cup Euro/Africa Zone Group 1 next year. Two teams will be promoted after the event.

South Africa, seeded four, have drawn top seeds Sweden, Slovenia and Norway in Pool A. South Africa will play Sweden in their opening tie tomorrow (Wednesday) morning followed by Norway on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday, South Africa will play Slovenia

Team Captain Earl Grainger said that his team faced a big challenge in Lithuania. “Let’s not kid ourselves we are in a very tough tournament and have drawn first seeds in our opening pool tie. But we have a very competent and enthusiastic team who are able to deliver so South Africa can be well assured of our best efforts always.”

The draw conducted Tuesday is as follows;

POOL A

4-South Africa
1-Sweden
Norway
Slovenia

POOL B

3-Lithuania
Egypt
Luxemburg
2-Denmark


JUNIOR NATIONAL TENNIS CHAMPIONS CROWNED IN BLOEMFONTEIN

Bloemfontein, South Africa – Bloemfontein resident, Philip Henning wrote his name amongst the junior tennis greats of South Africa on Easter Sunday when he won the under 18 boys singles title at the Free State Tennis Stadium.

Henning, aged 17 is in his first under 18 year and his comfortable 6-2 6-1 win over Lleyton Cronje of Pretoria in 1 hour 16 minutes was his sixth junior national singles title.

Only former ATP professional and Davis Cup player, Neville Godwin has won more titles than Henning. Godwin captured seven of the eight possible titles, and could have won all 8 played in the under 12, 14, 16 and 18 age groups but missed one Junior Nationals tournament due to international duty for his country.

Henning lost an under 14 final to Western Provinces Mathew Johnson four years back but won all the rest contested. The Grey College pupil ties with another former professional Jeff Coetzee on six titles and still has a chance next year to equal Godwin’s record.

“It’s really great to have won another title, especially in my home town. I feel proud and blessed” said the modest top seeded Henning after victory. “I played a good defensive game against Lleyton today. Lleyton is a very aggressive player and came into the final with a lot of confidence after playing so well all week so I had to get on top of him early in the match in order to have a good chance.”

Henning got the first break of serve in the sixth game of the opening set to lead 4-2. Cronje, seeded ten, seemed to lose the drive at that point in the match that had earned him a well-deserved spot in the final. Henning won the next seven games back to back, and leading 6-2 4-0. A lacklustre Cronje served three double faults in a row giving the match and title basically ‘on a plate’ to Henning. In form Henning failed to lose a set all week.

The girls under 18 title went to tournament favourite Minnette van Vreden of The Strand in Boland who had little trouble in beating unseeded Maja Gledic of Gauteng Central, 6-4 6-2. It was van Vreden’s first national junior singles title and seemed pleased to have gone one better after losing in the final last year.

In the under 16 boys fourth seeded Charl Morgan of Johannesburg was crowned champion when he upset top seed Joubert Klopper of Bloemfontein 7-6 (3) 6-2.
It was a good week for Morgan who revenged his loss in the 2017 African Junior Championships final to second seeded Pierre Malan of Cape Town in Saturday’s semi-final. Morgan trounced Malan 6-3 6-1 and was a far better player on court that a week earlier against Malan.

Free State claimed their third title when resident Delien Kleinhans out played Cape Town’s Myah Petchey 7-5 7-5 in the under 16 girls final. It was a dream final for the tournament organisers with the top two seeds contesting title honours. It was sweet revenge for Kleinhans who lost to Petchey last week in the African Junior Championships.

Devin Badenhorst of Gauteng North won the boys under 14 title upsetting eighth seed Daniel Wessels of Eden 6-1 6-1.

In the girls under 14, tenth seeded Gabriela Broadfoot of Gauteng Central was crowned champion. Broadfoot enjoyed a solid week upsetting Durbanite, Cylin Misdorp, the fifth seed in the semi-finals. In Sunday’s final, Broadfoot ended the fine run of Christine Kruger also of Gauteng Central winning surprisingly easy 6-1 6-3. Kruger had on Saturday shocked top seed Kelly Arends to reach the final.

In the under 12 age group Jordan Georgiev seeded two of Gauteng Central won the boys title with second seeded Nadia Gouws of Gauteng North winning the girls title.

The under 10 boys title was won by Willem de Waal of Boland. The girls under 10 title went to defending champion Donna Le Roux, daughter of former rugby great Ollie Le Roux. Le Roux of Free State defended Korona Rugara saving two match points in her final.


EASTER TENNIS EXTRAVAGANZA FOR BLOEMFONTEIN

Bloemfontein, South Africa – Easter time is tennis time as South Africa’s top junior tennis players will battle for national title honours during this week’s SA Junior Nationals in Bloemfontein. The tournament will be played from Tuesday, 11 April with the finals scheduled for Easter Sunday, 16 April 2017

The tournament is the premier event on the South African junior tennis calendar, and has attracted a record entry of 756 players from all over the country

There will be five age groups in the tournament for boys and girls, namely – under 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18. Each age group will have a singles and doubles draw

The Free State Tennis Stadium will serve as the tournament’s main site, with eight other venues being used to accommodate the record entry. These are; University of Free State, Grey College, Eunice Girls High, Orange Meisies Laer, Oud Studente Tennis, St Michaels High, Mudd Plain, Mundene Tennis Klub

The semi-finals (Saturday) and finals (Sunday) will be played at the Free State Tennis Stadium

The seeds are as follow;

BOYS UNDER 12
1. John Coetzee (BOL)
2. Jordan Georgiev (GC)
3. Stuard Van der Merwe (GN)
4. Kyle Erwee (GN)
5. Cornel Liebenberg (FS)
6. Imaad Lorgat (WP)
7. Frasnwillem Van der Merwe (BOL)
8. Leo Matthysen (WP)
UNDER 14
1. Alexander Edley (KZN)
2. Andreas Scott (GN)
3. Marnus Oosthuizen (EDEN)
4. James Edley (KZN)
5. Conor Kruger (GN)
6. Carl Roothman (BOL)
7. Arno Nel (BOL)
8. Daniel Wessels (EDEN)
UNDER 16
1. Joubert Klopper (FS)
2. Pierre Malan (WP)
3. Thando Longwe-Smit (WP)
4. Charl Morgan (GC)
5. Robbie Arends (WP)
6. Kholo Montsi (GN)
7. Victor Putter (GN)
8. Jared Howard (BOL)
UNDER 18
1. Philip Henning (FS)
2. Christian Worst (GN)
3. Bertus Kruger (GC)
4. Justin Liebenberg (GC)
5. Rossouw Norval (BOL)
6. Jordan Sauer (GN)
7. Gerhard Swart (GN)
8. Gerhardt Becker (GN)

GIRLS UNDER 12
1. Carle Botha (GN)
2. Nadia Gouws (GN)
3. Janke Viljoen (BOL)
4. Anke Heyns (FS)
5. Kaitlyn Ramduth (KZN)
6. Hailey Troup (WP)
7. Leila Nel (EP)
8. Carli Kruger (FS)
UNDER 14
1. Kelly Arends (WP)
2. Arista Siebrits (GN)
3. Anelma Grobler (BOL)
4. Mienke Viljoen (BOL)
5. Kylie Misdorp (KZN)
6. Lenka Steenkamp (BOL)
7. Narine Van der Walt (WP)
8. Ine Lamprecht (GN)
UNDER 16
1. Delien Kleinhans (FS)
2. Myah Petchey (WP)
3. Linge Steenkamp (FS)
4. Jessica Portwig (GC)
5. Megan Basson (GC)
6. Tamsin Hart (GC)
7. Makayla Loubser (WP)
8. Marne Derksen (FS)
UNDER 18
1. Minette Van Vreden (BOL)
2. Bianca Koen (GN)
3. Maxine Bateman (KZN)
4. Megan Lombardi (BOL)
5. Lize-Alet Morkel (BOL)
6. Angela Georgieva (GC)
7. Samantha Muller (GC)
8. Kaylin Bouwer (EP)


KIA SOUTH AFRICA ROMP TO A 5-0 WIN OVER SLOVENIA IN DAVIS CUP

Pretoria, South Africa – A dominant South African Davis Cup team romped to a 5-0 win over Slovenia at the Irene Country Club, Pretoria on Sunday.

Nik Scholtz of South Africa thanks the crowds after winning against Tomislav Ternar (SLO) during the reverse singles of the Davis Cup tie between South Africa and Slovenia at the Irene Country Club on April 09, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.

Lloyd Harris of South Africa in action against Tilen Zitnik (SLO) during the reverse singles of the Davis Cup tie between South Africa and Slovenia at the Irene Country Club on April 09, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


South Africa failed to lose a set in both reverse singles rubbers on Sunday and were in firm control throughout play.

Both reverse singles on Sunday were reduced to best of three tie break sets as the tie had already been decided. Lloyd Harris and Nik Scholtz dominated to give South Africa the clean sweep.

Harris beat Tilen Zitnik 6-3 6-3 whilst Scholtz beat Tomislav Ternar 6-2 6-4 in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd.

Marcos Ondruska, the South African Captain said he couldn’t be happier with the clean sweep. “I am extremely happy and proud of my team. Everything worked for us this weekend and my players executed well and really lifted their games to the highest level I’ve seen since taking over captaincy. The boys kept composed and put on a good show. We lost only two sets in five rubbers played all weekend which showed the form of the entire team was on point.”

Ondruska said that the solid win was a team effort. “The entire squad have got on extremely well and this played a huge part in the weekend success. The guys have had a fun time and made the most of every opportunity which helped a lot with the win.” Ondruska also thanked squad members Tucker Vorster, Siphos Montsi and trainer Karen Vd Merwe for their valuable contributions. Ondruska also acknowledged the contribution made by Neville Godwin as his consultant coach

On Saturday, the KIA South African doubles team of Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse sealed the tie with a straight set win over Grega Zemlja and Tomislav Ternar 7-6 (6) 6-2 6-4. Harris and Scholtz both opened procedures on Friday impressive wins. Harris trounced Mike Urbanija 6-1 6-1 6-2 whilst Scholtz came from behind to upset Zemlja 3-6 6-7 (1) 7-6 (6) 7-6 (4) 7-6 (7) in one of the most epic rubbers ever played in South African Davis Cup history.

South Africa will now play Denmark, in Denmark in round 3 from 15-17 September 2017. The winner of this tie will be promoted to Group 1.


SOUTH AFRICA CLINCH IMPORTANT DAVIS CUP TIE AGAINST SLOVENIA

Pretoria, South Africa - In front of an enthusiastic sold out home crowd, KIA South African doubles specialist Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse overcame Slovenia’s Grega Zemlja and Tomislav Ternar in straight sets 7-6 (6) 6-2 6-4 to clinch an overall victory for team KIA South Africa in the Davis Cup on Saturday at the Irene Country Club. South Africa now lead the tie 3-0 heading into Sunday’s reverse singles and earn a chance to play for promotion in September for a possible place in Euro/Africa Group 1 next year.

The KIA South African Davis Cup squad, from left; Nik Scholtz, Ruan Roelofse, Siphos Montsi team captain Marcos Ondruska, Lloyd Harris, Raven Klaasen and Tucker Vorster,

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


The South African duo knew although they were clear favourites, the task would be difficult especially on altitude. Also, the Slovenian Captain, Blaz Tropej made a change at the eleventh hour to his doubles team replacing Tilen Zitnik with Zemlja.
“As a team, we knew we had it all to do today. The doubles may only be one point out of five in a tie but today Ruan and I knew we could either clinch victory for South Africa or put pressure on the singles players for Sunday’s reverse singles” said Klaasen. Klaasen said that it was a pleasure to go into the doubles rubber knowing his team were up 2-0. “Both Lloyd Harris and Nik Scholtz played their part on Friday with two excellent wins. So it was time for Ruan and I to deliver the favour back” continued Klaasen.

Roelofse, who now stands at 7 wins and no losses in Davis Cup ties was extremely proud of the team’s effort this weekend. “Even though Raven and I won the tie today we know that it took team effort to get this result, and we are just extremely happy that we won today.”

The doubles rubber lasted 1hr and 49mins.

KIA South Africa Davis Cup Team Captain, Marcos Ondruska was extremely pleased that the tie had been sealed going into the final day and now he could celebrate with his team. “I am not only pleased, I am ecstatic in the win. I felt my team played the best tennis I have ever seen them play. On Friday Lloyd was simply brilliant giving his opponent no chance whatsoever. Nik fought a fight like no other – coming back from match points down to win probably the best win of his career. The doubles boys put the cherry on the cake by doing a great job on court today” said Ondruska. “Each and every member of my squad played an important part in the overall victory. I am extremely grateful to each one of them and proud to be their Captain.”

Sundays reverse singles will feature South African number one Lloyd Harris taking on Slovenian number one Grega Zemlja followed by South African number two Nik Scholtz taking on Slovenians number two Mike Urbanija. Play starts at 11.00 am.


HARRIS & SCHOLTZ GIVE TEAM SOUTH AFRICA A DREAM DAVIS CUP START

Pretoria, South Africa – South Africa made a dream start to their Davis Cup Euro/Africa Group 2 second round tie against Slovenia at the Irene Country Club on Friday.

Lloyd Harris of South Africa in action against Mike Urbanija (SLO) during the opening singles of the Davis Cup tie between South Africa and Slovenia at the Irene Country Club on April 07, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.

Nik Scholtz of South Africa in action against Grega Zemlja (SLO) during the opening singles of the Davis Cup tie between South Africa and Slovenia at the Irene Country Club on April 07, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.

Photo credit: Reg Caldecott


The home team lead 2-0 after singles players Lloyd Harris and Nik Scholtz won their singles rubbers in impressive style.

Harris opened for South Africa and needed only 1 hour 14 minutes to whip Slovenian number two Mike Urbanija 6-1 6-1 6-2 in an impressive performance of focused tennis.

“I felt like today was a really good match for me. I was really comfortable out there today and felt I focused on the task and put my opponent under a lot of pressure. I played aggressively on my forehand, moved well and stepped into the returns and served on song” said Harris. “I am getting more comfortable playing Davis Cup and today with me going out first admittedly I had some nerves but I know I have a duty to perform for myself and my country and I am maturing in my Davis Cup game each tie” continued Harris.

Nik Scholtz, the South African number two ended up hero of the day. Scholtz dug deep, fought hard, saved match points and came from behind to beat top Slovenian Grega Zemlja 3-6 6-7 (1) 7-6 (6) 7-6 (4) 7-6 (7) in a gruelling 4 hours 20 minutes.

The South African number two came from behind in each of the third, fourth and fifth set tiebreakers and saved two match points in the third set tie breaker en route to winning the rubber.
Scholtz served 35 aces and beat a played ranked some 300 spots above him on the world rankings.

“It was really an unbelievable match. The atmosphere was great, my entire family were in the crowds and I was happy to have pulled off the win. I had to dig deep, Grega is a great player, I respect him a loss and it’s never easy to lose a match like this. I have been in the same situation so my heart goes out to Grega.”

Marcos Ondruska, the KIA South Africa team coach said he was delighted to go in Saturday 2-0. “We in a good position but still have to work hard in making sure our doubles team have the best shot at winning on Saturday. I am very proud of both Lloyd and Nik who really impressed today. Lloyd was in top form and played a simply brilliant rubber. Nik was a worrier of note tonight. What a fight he put in. Nik even began cramping in the final set and I had to rub him down on the change overs to keep him going. But Nik was fighting hard against a player who has been ranked in the world’s top 50 and he came through with flying colours. “

On Saturday South Africa’s favoured doubles team of Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse will play Slovenians Tomislav Ternar and Tilen Zitnik at 15h00.

The reverse singles will be played on Sunday at 11h00.


SLOVENIA MAKE SURPRISE MOVE AT DAVIS CUP DRAW

Pretoria, South Africa – In an unexpected move, Slovenia named lower ranked Mike Urbanija to play as their second singles player in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas tie against KIA South Africa when the official draw was concluded at the Irene Country Club in Pretoria on Thursday afternoon.

The KIA South African Davis Cup team during the official draw, held at the Irene Country Club in Pretoria on Thursday afternoon, from left to right Raven Klaasen, Ruan Roelofse, Lloyd Harris, Nik Scholtz, Marcos Ondruska(captain). The Davis Cup Euro/Africa Zone Group 2 Round 2 by BNP Paribas between South Africa and Slovenia will be played on the 7-9 April 2017 at the Irene Country Club.

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


The all-important Euro Africa Group 2 second round tie will be played from Friday 7 April to Sunday 9 April at the Irene Country Club. A win by South Africa will give them a chance to play the winner of the Denmark vs Norway tie in September for possible promotion into the Euro Africa Group 1 next year.

Gavin Crookes, President of Tennis South Africa (TSA) drew out the name of Urbanija first from the hat meaning the Slovenia would open procedures on Friday at 15h00 against Lloyd Harris, South Africa’s number one nominated player. This will be the first time in four ties played that Harris will go out first for his country.

“My team and I were surprised by Urbanija (ranked 857) being named number two player ahead of higher ranked Tomislav Ternar (ranked 792) at the draw. I was expecting Ternar to play but regardless I am prepared for whoever on Friday and am eager and excited to get onto court and open for South Africa” said Harris.

Urbanija is coming back from injury and this will be his first time playing a live rubber for Slovenia.

South Africa’s Nik Scholtz will go out second for South Africa against the Slovenia number one Grega Zemlja. Much is weighing in on the shoulders of Zemlja this weekend as he is the highest ranked Slovenian in the team and singles player in the tie and singles points from the 148 ranked Slovenian, who is playing in his 13th Davis Cup year, will give his country their only hope of a win again South Africa.

Zemlja said that he was feeling good about his game and felt that the late start time on Friday would work in his favour. “We are getting better each day on the altitude and with the weather forecast looking like thunder showers over the weekend and playing in the night, it should slow things down and work in my favour. I enjoy playing under lights and actually feel I am hitting the ball surprisingly well ” said Zemlja.

On Saturday at 15h00 Raven Klaasen and Ruan Roelofse will represent the home side and play Slovenians Tomislav Ternar and Tilen Zitnik in the crucial doubles rubber.

On Sunday the reverse singles starts at 11h00 with the battle of the number ones Harris vs Zemlja followed by the battle of the number two’s Scholtz vs Urbanija.

Marcos Ondruska, captain of KIA South Africa said that he was happy with the preparation ahead of the tie and felt his team were playing the best tennis he had seen them play going into a tie. “We are ready for Slovenia. It’s going to be a tough tie but I think my boys are striking the ball well and the team is in good spirit and will give their all and hand South Africa a win.”

Asked about the decision by Slovenian Captain Blaz Trupej to play Urbanija Ondruska said it came as a surprise. “I didn’t expect the nomination by Slovenia but Davis Cup is a tactical game. Possibly Urbanija played better in practise this week or they will switch the players within the rules come Sunday to have a fresher opponent for Scholtz in the reverse singles. One never knows in Davis Cup what the captains decide which lends to an interesting weekend of tennis.”


ALL THREE MEN’S TOP SEEDS PREVAIL ON FINALS DAY AT ITF YOUNG SENNIORS WORLD INDIVIDUAL CHAMPS

Cape Town, South Africa – Three of the four top seeds that contested Saturday’s singles finals emerged victorious at the ITF Young Seniors World Individual Championships in Cape Town, South Africa.

Two of the victorious top seeds, Jasper Smit (Men 35) and Marcus Hilpert (Men 45), will be taking their championship titles back to The Netherlands. The only other top seed to land a title was Spaniard Roberto Menendez Ferre in the Men 40 division.

The lone top seed to fall on Saturday was Slovenia’s Barbara Mulej who was forced to retire injured in the Women 40 final against unseeded Celine Regnier of France, who led 5-1 at the time of the stoppage.

Throughout the week, Smit played well within himself and never dropped a set en route to the Men 35 final. It was much the same in the final where he defeated Frenchman Benoit Foucher 6-1 6-1.

It was a cruel fate for the unseeded Foucher who toppled seeded players in each of the four rounds ahead of the final.

There was another winner’s medal later for Smit, who partnered by countryman Martijn van Haasteren won the Men 35 doubles final 6-3 6-2 against the French pair Alexandre Martinatto and Steeve Noblecourt.

Men 45 winner Hilpert won 6-3 6-1 against third-seeded Canadian Taras Beyko who capitulated somewhat in the second set after a brave fight in the opening set.

Hilpert was on the winner’s podium again later in the day when he and fellow countryman Bart Beks won the Men 45 doubles final 6-4 6-2 against the Spaniards Jonathan Garcia and Mario Perea.

Menendez Ferre, however, was the only top seed winner on Saturday to drop a set. In the Men 40 final he was given a scare by Great Britain’s Luke Milligan who halted the Spaniard’s victory march by taking the second set by a convincing 6-1 margin to force the contest into the extra set.

However, Menendez Ferre regained his touch to down the Brit 6-4 1-6 6-2 in the end.

The Women 45 winner, second seed Ana Salas-Lozano of Spain was the other singles champion to be extended. All week she appeared to be playing well within herself but did not look all that invincible when her clash against 4th seeded Eva Haslinghuis of the Netherlands got under way.

Haslinghuis was off to a great start taking the opening set 6-3 but she was not able to retain her grip on proceedings as the match progressed.

She failed to live with Salas-Lozano relentless pressure in the remaining sets and that saw the Spaniard home 3-6 6-3 6-2.

This result also marked Spain’s second singles title on the day.

In the remaining singles shoot-out, the small German contingent’s support was divided as two of their countrymen reached the Women 35 championship match.

In the end, the fourth-seeded Gitte Moeller prevailed over unseeded Andrea Fischer 6-4 6-2.

In the penultimate round, Fischer caused quite a stir when she downed the top-seeded Canadian Christina Popescu in straight sets.

The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the all South African Women 45 final in which the third seeds Lettica Venter and Annerie Wessels relied on a tiebreak to record a 4-6 6-2 [10-5] win over Rene Plant and Rosanne Duke.


ONE SECOND VICTORY FOR LEBALLO IN SPAR GRAND PRIX SEASON OPENER

Cape Town, South Africa - In one of the closest finishes in years, seasoned athlete Louisa Leballo (Nedbank) sprinted across the finish line to snatch victory in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge in Cape Town in 32.58 minutes, just one second ahead of Kesa Moletsane (KPMG). Last year’s SPAR Grand Prix winner, Irvette van Zyl (Nedbank) was third in 33.07 minutes.

The top 3 finishers of the Cape Town SPAR Women’s Challenge run at the Greenpoint Stadium precinct in Cape Town on Sunday 02 April 2017. From left to right: Irvette van Zyl (3rd), the winner Louisa Leballo and second placed Kesa Molotsane.

Picture credit: Reg Caldecott


It was the closest finish in recent times.
Van Zyl surged into the lead from the start and appeared to be running strongly. She maintained the lead until the sixth kilometre, but Leballo, Moletsane, Mapaseka Makhanya and Lebogang Phalula were close on her heels. By the 7km mark, 39 year old Moletsane was giving her a run for her money. It was a tight race for the finish, with 39-year-old Leballo outsprinting Moletsane across the line. Leballo’s previous fastest time was 33.29, set in Soweto in 2003.
“I never thought I would win today. I wasn’t feeling well after the World Cross Country champs in Uganda, so it was a bit of a surprise to win,” said Leballo.
“At the beginning, the race was very fast. It was my first SPAR Challenge race in Cape Town, so I didn’t know the route. I have been struggling with injury for the past four years, so I am happy to come back strongly.”
“It was my first SPAR Challenge race, so I didn’t really plan anything,” said Moletsane.
“I have just come from two hectic races – I was running the World Cross Country in Uganda, and Varsity Athletics on Friday. I just had to run and it was perfect for me today. I come from inland, and it is always good to run at the coast,” she said.
Van Zyl said she had not run a good tactical race.
“I am an impatient runner, so I can’t sit and wait until somebody makes a move. I think maybe that hurt me at the end, because I was really wobbly from 8kms. I didn’t realise Kesa was in the race until 7kms. Maybe, if I had known at the start I might have run differently. In the last kilometre, I knew I was in big trouble. Kesa has a big kick and Louisa was a surprise. Then when the cyclist said 500 metres to go, it was just bam! Everyone kicks and I had no energy and wobbly legs.
SPAR wants us to run fast times and so we will be going all out. The first race of the 2017 season is over and we can settle in and watch each other in the next five races,” said Van Zyl.
Twenty-one thousand runners took part in the 10km Challenge and the 5km Fun Run at the Cape Town Stadium.
The second leg of the SPAR Grand prix will be held on Saturday morning 6 May 2017 in Nelson Mandela Bay.

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