Leon Els, Mariska Venter advance to Bloem Open finals

Leon Els. Photo: Reg Caldecott

Top seeds Mariska Venter and Leon Els both scaled through to the finals on Tuesday and are a win away from achieving their second landmark titles at the Bloem Open wheelchair tennis tournament at Oud Studente Tennis Club in Bloemfontein.

Venter defeated sixth-seeded Asive Gilifile 6-1 6-3, while Els got the better of another top junior, Alwande Skhosana, 7-5 6-1 in the semi-final round, as the welcoming weather persisted in Mangaung.

The 20-year-old Venter produced a master-class performance to outplay Gilifile and will meet second seed Thando Hlatswayo in Wednesday’s final.

The Kwazulu-Natal native, Hlatswayo, seeded second, defeated top junior Nokwanda Hlongwane 6-1 6-0 to reach her second final at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Futures event in Bloemfontein.

Hlatswayo is determined to avenge after she suffered a stunning loss against Venter in the finals of the Bloem Open sponsored by Airports Company South Africa last year and the rivals will face off for the first time since then when they slug it out for the Bloem Open title.

Leon Els ousted Skhosana to reach his second final in Mangaung, a challenge against longtime rival Marshall Marsh.

Port Elizabeth’s Marsh who stands just one victory from his dream of clinching his first title at Oud Studente Tennis Club took down fourth-seeded Donald Ramphadi 6-7(4) 6-4 6-0 in a gruelling three-setter match.

In the junior event, the finals will be between the top two players Alwande Skhosana and Mpho Mhlongo who had no trouble getting past their opponents in the semi-finals to set up their second final clash in Mangaung.

World number three and defending champion Nokwanda Hlongwane who scooped a School Sport  Athlete of the year Award at the Gauteng Sport awards at the weekend also advanced to the final. Hlongwane saw off Nosipho Hlatswayo 6-2 6-3 and will go head-to-head against Tanzanian Lucy Shirima for the girls title. – Wheelchair Tennis South Africa