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THE BORDER WATCH - 18/10/2008

South and Grandin to contest tennis final

Posted on October 18, 2008, 3:03pm and updated on October 18, 2008 at 6:38 pm

The stage is set for a fascinating final of the Mount Gambier Blue Lake International Women’s Tennis Tournament between powerful English player Melanie South and skilful South African Natalie Grandin.

Both women won their semi-finals convincingly in straight sets.

South knocked out I-Husan Hwang from Taiwan 6-4, 6-0 while Grandin was too classy for promising young Australian Sally Peers 6-1, 6-1.

Fourth seed Grandin, 27, has beaten top seed South, 22, in their two previous encounters, but is expecting a tougher contest this time.

Currently ranked 311 in the world, Grandin (pictured) told The Border Watch she is striving to qualify for the Australian Open after focusing on doubles for most of this year.

“I have hardly played singles this year,” she said.

“I took the first three months of the year off with a knee injury and then played a lot of doubles.

“My goal is to qualify for the Australian Open.”

Grandin was impressive in tricky conditions before a small crowd in the semi final.

The talented left hander simply hit too many winners for the erratic Peers, who never came to terms with the blustery wind and served six double faults.

Grandin worked the ball around the court, slicing it heavily to reduce Peers’ hitting power. She deftly dropped the ball over the net for winners several times from the back of the court.

Peers lost her first two service games and never seriously challenged. It was a great tournament though for the unseeded qualifier and she will take much confidence into the next event at Port Pirie.

For Grandin, success in Mount Gambier will bolster her credentials as a singles player.

She was pleased with her form in the semi-final, which was played in warm and windy weather.

“It was very tough out there,” Grandin said.

“I thought I played smart in the conditions.”

Melanie South had no trouble disposing of Hwang in the first semi-final, although both players made many unforced errors in the first set.

Hwang opened with a double fault and lost her first service game. She broke back immediately, then games went with serve to 3-3.

The wind caused both players to struggle with their ball toss and serve. There were three more service breaks when games were at 5-4 in South’s favor.

With the set up for grabs the Englishwoman finally took control, hitting two clear winners and serving two successive aces to close out the game.

South dominated the second set. She reduced her error rate, improved her serve, forced more errors from Hwang and hit more winners.

She broke Hwang’s serve twice in the first three games. With the score at 3-0 the Taiwanese woman took a medical break and returned with a shoulder strap.

South was unflustered by the interruption and closed out the match in emphatic fashion. She hit several cross-court double-handed backhand winners that left Hwang standing flat footed.

South served three aces for the match and four double faults. She will be hoping for calmer conditions tomorrow in the final.

Follow the tournament final live on from 1pm central summer time (3.30 GMT).

by Michael Gorey

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