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Freedom day opens doors of opportunity for South African wheelchair tennis stars

Twenty five years ago, South African wheelchair tennis star Kgothatso Montjane would never have dreamed of competing in tennis at the highest level.

Today on Freedom Day, Montjane, affectionately known as “KG”, is playing on the international wheelchair tennis circuit and is ranked number one in South Africa and 13 in the world.

This weekend, Montjane is playing in the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open at the Gauteng East Tennis Centre in Benoni. Montjane is seeded fourth in the Women’s Singles and one of the favourites to go all the way in this Grade 2 International Tennis Federation tournament.

What happened 18 years ago today in our country has opened the doors of opportunity for players like Montjane, and her fellow countryman, Evans Maripa, Sydwell Mathonsi and Lucas Sithole.

The 25-year-old Polokwane player was born with a congenital birth defect. She started playing tennis six years ago and has since made a huge impact on the local and international circuit. She is widely regarded by her peers and young fans as a major inspiration. “I love tennis and love being part of the action at this level,” said Montjane. “It’s quite sad to realise that, had our country never become the democracy it is now, as a black player I may never have had this opportunity.”

Montjane will open up her campaign on Saturday against the winner of today’s first round match between South Africans Thando Thlatswayo and Rose Van Der Merwe.

If all goes to plan with her side of the draw, Montjane should meet seventh seed Francisca Mardones of Chile in the quarter finals, and top seed and last week’s Airports Company South Africa SA Open winner, Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany, in the semi-final. Montjane reached the last four at Ellis Park, but lost to top seed Marjolein Buis. A good showing in Benoni will almost certainly secure Montjane her spot in the London Paralympics later this year.

South Africa will be banking on the efforts of Sydwell Mathonsi and up and coming star, Evans Maripa in the Men’s Singles.

Mothonsi is seeded sixth while Maripa is a spot back in seventh. Both players were unseeded in last week’s ACSA SA Open, where Monthonsi was unlucky to draw top seed Takashi Sanada of Japan in the opening round. “This week I am seeded and it makes a big difference” said Mothonsi.

Evans, on the other hand, had the week of his life at Ellis Park. The 21-year-old Polokwane player upset two seeded players in reaching the semi-finals.

Like the ladies, all the men’s seeds enjoyed first round byes on Friday.

Lucas Sithole heads the South African challenge in the Quads. The Kwa-Zulu Natal triple amputee is ranked ninth in the world and is the top seed for this week’s action in Benoni. With no points to defend this week, Sithole is hoping to win the Benoni event and move even higher on the world rankings which will certainly secure his spot in London in August.

Published by The BLD Group