CAPE TOWN, March 19 – The start of the 2017 ITF Young Seniors World Team Championships in Cape Town on Sunday was marked by the debut of Mozambique and the return of Israel after an absence of 15 years.
There was action across six age-groups at as many venues across the Mother City where fine weather conditions prevailed throughout the day. Eighty-five teams, 49 men’s and 36 women’s, from 25 nations will be in action until Friday when the finals and play-offs will be concluded.
The three-man Mozambique team, playing in the Men’s 35-year group, were up against sixth seeds USA and it turned to be a baptism of fire for the Africans as they went down 3-0 at Kelvin Grove, the tournament headquarters.
Bruno Figueiredo, the Mozambique captain and No 1, said the team was proud to be flying the Mozambique flag at an international event.
“It wasn’t easy for us but after a six-hour drive from Maputo to Johannesburg, we flew to Cape Town,” said Figueiredo, who like the rest of the team is a professional coach in the Mozambique capital.
“We’ve never been exposed to international events at a senior level but the International Tennis Federation have staged Futures events in the country,” said Figueiredo, adding: “This tournament will be a learning experience for us.”
Germany’s Gerhard Fahlke provide the M35 fifth seeds with a winning start in their tie against Turkey. Fahlke, playing No 1 for the Germans, defeated Turkey’s Lebit Umut Yurtoglu 6-1 6-0.
“Since we didn’t have a chance to practice on the Kelvin Grove courts we did not know what to expect,” said Fahlke, who needed just 45 minutes to breeze past his opponent with a gameplan that was too hard to contain.
“I mixed up my game with fast and slow serves, and then threw in some drop shots, so I never allowed him to settle down.”
Germany who ended 3-0 winners at the end of the day will be up against Mexico on Monday, and Fahlke said Germany will be better prepared this time.
“We managed to have a practice game against Mexico late last week, so we know what to expect.”
On Tuesday, Germany will go up against the top seeds Spain who tasted defeat in the final for the Italia Cup in Umag, Croatia, last year.
Unseeded Mexico found the going uphill in their opener against Spain who sent out their No 2 Javier Martinez Baena to open proceedings. He was up against the Mexican No 1 Maurico Mendez who capitulated 6-1 6-1.
“My plan was to trade heavily on my serve and forehand and the ploy worked like a charm,” said Baena. “I was looking to do well from the start and as the game progressed I found my rhythm.
“We’re looking for another good result (ended the day 3-0 winners) against Turkey on Monday.”
Over at the Green Point Tennis Club where the Men’s 45 players are vying for the Dubler Cup, conditions were more trying for teams from the Nothern Hemisphere.
Jeroen Bok led the challenge for The Netherlands with a 6-2 6-1 win over Ireland’s Patrick McGrath.
He said conditions were “tough” for both teams since pre-tournament preparation was strictly done indoors.
“Suddenly you’re tossing the ball at the serve into the blue skies and then the bounce of the ball was so much higher,” said Bok. “I managed a win today but it wasn’t as easy as the scoreline suggests. I had to work really hard and the challenge was to adapt to the conditions.
“I think our opponents were preparing back home on synthetic grass before they arrived.”
The Netherlands saw out the day with a 3-0 triumph over Ireland.
Canada’s captain and No 2 player, Benjamin Woo, produced a workmanlike performance en route to a 6-4 6-0 win over USA’s Gerrit Disbergen.
Woo said he found the playing surface ideal and coped well with the early morning breezy conditions when playing the South African-born American.
“I remained relaxed and was prepared to fight for every point. The key was to up the intensity as the match wound its course,” said Woo, after he had given his side a 1-0 lead.
“My opponent did not offer as much fight in the second set and it also helped that I kept the ball in court more often.”
The fourth-seeded USA suffered another early morning setback in the next singles tie and that paved the way for the unseeded Canada to run out eventual 2-1 upset winners at the end of Sunday’s tie.
The Argentina-Sweden opener between Luis Valdez and Jorgen Aberg (SWE) turned out to be a real dogfight.
On arrival, Valdez wasn’t too impressed with the absence of wifi at the venue but once the action started he produced a finely-tuned performance before emerging a close-shave 7-5 6-4 victor over the Swede.
“There were highs and lows in my game but as along as I could mix things up, I was in with a chance,” said Valdez. “I fought hard on the back of my serves and then a solid right forehand worked well for me.”
Unseeded Argentina held out for an eventual 2-1 upset win over the sixth-seeded Swedes.
In another upset result, unseeded Australia saw off the eighth-seeded Argentina in M35 division.