PRETORIA – Ruan Olivier continued his dream run in the Growthpoint SA Nationals squash tournament when he upset top seed JP Brits 3-1 in the men’s semifinals at the Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria today.
The 26-year-old Olivier was at a loss for words after his game, but later described it as one of the highlights of his young career.
His shot at the title will come against second seed Christo Potgieter of SA Country Districts, who was too sharp for Western Province veteran Rodney Durbach, winning 3-0.
Both players will be contesting their first Nationals final, which should make for a fascinating shoot-out tomorrow.
In the women’s final, WP top seed Alex Fuller set herself up for her third Nationals title when her aggressive style proved too much for Eastern Province’s Hayley Ward.
She will face Lizelle Muller (SACD) in tomorrow’s final at 3pm after the second seed held off a spirited challenge from 19-year-old Teagan Roux (Joburg Squash) to win 3-1.
But the day belonged to Olivier, who was SA’s top junior in 2012 before being plagued by injuries for a few years.
However, he announced that he was back to his best as he recorded his first-ever win over Brits to give himself a shot at national glory.
He kept his composure in a tense encounter after the players were level at 1-1 to edge through 11-5 7-11 11-9 11-7.
Afterwards he said he had just tried to concentrate on his game-plan.
“I went in with a certain strategy which I felt comfortable with and that seemed to work, so I didn’t have to change things much,” Olivier, who plays for Northerns, said.
“This was definitely my best performance as a senior and after having injuries for about two years, it really shows the hard work has been worthwhile.
“I’m really excited to be in the final because this is such a prestigious event.”
In the second women’s semifinal, teenager Roux showed her tremendous potential by pushing the more experienced Muller to four games before succumbing 13-11 in the fourth.
After last year’s runner-up took the second game 11-2 to move 2-0 ahead, Roux looked dead and buried.
But she employed a wristy forearm boast to keep her opponent guessing and kept her hopes alive by taking the game 13-11 on her third game point.
Muller said she told herself to settle down and concentrate on keeping a good length, which earned her a telling 10-7 lead. But Roux was not finished yet and came back strongly to hold a game point at 11-10.
However, she put a drive into the tin and Muller once again seized the initiative to finally close out the match after 39 minutes.
Afterwards the 36-year-old paid tribute to her opponent.
“Teagan you have improved so much, that was a great effort,” she said. “For myself, I am just looking forward to going to have fun in the final and what will be, will be.”
The 27-year-old Fuller said the shutdown caused by Covid-19 had given her a fresh start, even though it had been disappointing not to have completed the PSA tour earlier this year.
“I feel like the hunger is back and I’m so excited to be back playing after the months of no squash during lockdown,” she said as she eyes a third national title after winning in 2015 and 2018.
“I feel my fast-paced game suits this all-glass court which is pretty fast and that made Hayley feel a bit rushed, which probably was the difference in the end.”
Friday’s semifinal results were:
Alex Fuller (WP, 1) bt Hayley Ward (EP) 3-0 (11-2, 11-3, 11-4)
Lizelle Muller (SACD, 2) bt Teagan Roux (Joburg Squash) 3-1 (11-9, 11-2, 11-13, 13-11)
Ruan Olivier (Northerns) bt JP Brits (SACD, 1) 3-1 (11-5, 7-11, 11-9 11-7)
Christo Potgieter (SACD, 2) bt Rodney Durbach (WP) 3-0 (11-2, 11-4, 11-9)
Saturday’s finals schedule is:
3pm, women’s final: Alex Fuller (WP, 1) v Lizelle Muller (SACD, 2)
Followed by women’s prize giving
4pm, men’s final: Christo Potgieter (SACD, 2) v Ruan Olivier (Northerns)
Followed by men’s prize giving