World number two Yui Kamiji shattered South Africa’s last hope in the women’s singles when she terminated Kgothatso ‘KG’ Montjane in a tightly-fought quarter-final contest at the Gauteng Open at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni on Friday.
Kamiji won the first set 6-3, but the South African powered her way back into the match to take the second set 6-3.
The petite Japanese player shifted into high gear and took the final set 6-2 to fix a date with defending champion Marjolein Buis from the Netherlands in Saturday’s semi-finals.
When the two left-handers met in the quarter-finals of the Melbourne Open in Australia two months ago, Montjane had the upper-hand, but Kamiji arrived with a plan of attack to take down the world number eight.
“Most of the girls in the top 10 like KG are very powerful,” said the Akashi player.
“I am quite small and I don’t have their strength, so I have to play strategically. My biggest strength is my ability to position the ball and forcing my opponents to make mistakes.
“I had a very good first set, but KG put me on the defensive in the second set and she scored a lot of points. I fought back to take the final set. Sometimes it works; sometimes not, but today it worked.”
Kamiji is making a debut appearance in the Level 1 International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament and the 19-year-old is loving the weather, the people and even the partisan crowds.
“Everyone I’ve met in South Africa has been incredibly friendly and helpful,” she said.
“It was a little tough to play Mariska Venter and KG, because the crowds get behind them, but it’s the same for them when I am playing in Japan. I just tried to stay within myself and tune out the crowd. I hope they will cheer like that for me when I play Marjolein tomorrow.”
Like most foreigners, Kamiji had a few problems adjusting to the speed of the ball at altitude.
“I used a new racket in my first practice round and 30 minutes later, the strings were broken,” Kamiji laughed. “I didn’t realise just how far the ball would travel at this altitude. Sometimes I still hit the ball too far, but I am glad that I am improving in every round.”
World number six Buis underscored her tenacity when she conquered Sabine Ellerbrock from Germany in a three setter to make the semis.
The Dutch player won the first set 6-3 and fourth seed Ellerbrock took the second 6-3. However, the fourth seed looked like she was spinning her wheels as Buis raced to 6-4 in the final set to clinch the match.
Meanwhile the second semi-final of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour events – sponsored by the Airports Company South Africa – will be an all-Dutch affair between Jiske Griffioen and Aniek van Koot.
World number one Griffioen defeated sixth seed Lucy Shuker from Great Britain 6-1 6-2 and third ranked Van Koot cruised to a 6-3 6-3 victory against eighth seed Katharina Kruger from Germany.
WOMENS SINGLES QUARTER-FINAL RESULTS:
RSA unless stated:
1-Jiske Griffioen (NED) bt 6-Lucy Shuker (GRB) 6-1 6-2
2-Yui Kamiji (JPN) bt 7-Kgothatso Montjane 6-3 3-6 6-2
3-Aniek Van Koot (NED) bt 8-Katharina Kruger (GER) 6-3 6-3
5-Marjolein Buis (NED) bt 4-Sabine Ellerbrock (GER) 6-3 3-6 6-4