Wheelchair Tennis Star Sithole Stamps his mark on 2014
South African Sports Star, Lucas Sithole has already stamped his mark on 2014 by winning his first title of the year - the Apia Sydney International Open that took place from 10-14 January 2014.
World number 2 Lucas Sithole had a great year in 2013, where he won the quads singles title at British Open in July 2013, became the 1st South African to win a US Open grand slam singles title in September 2013 and was the runner up in the NEC World Singles Masters in November. Triple amputee Lucas Sithole is showing he has stated 2014 on top form and determined to get closer to his career dream of becoming world no.1.
The quads event at the APIA Sydney International Open, which along with the British Open and Airports Company South Africa SA Open is considered one of the top six events on the NEC International Wheelchair Tennis tour. Although Sithole took the title, it was not all smooth sailing for Sithole. His match was against former world no.5 Jamie Burdekin (GBR) where Sithole took the 1st set 6-3 but Burdekin was determined to avenge his 1st match loss against Australian Dylan Alcott and caused a major upset by beating Sithole 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4). Despite a shaky start, Sithole stayed focused and won all the other round robin matches comfortably including the quads singles final match against Britain's world no.7 Antony Cotteril 6-1, 6-3. His superb performance and comfortable victories secured the title, which was determined on a set count.
Compatriot Kgothatso Montjane ranked no.6 internationally reached the semi-finals of the same event by defeating Janel Manns (AUS) 6-0, 6-2 in the 1st round and Jordanne Whiley (GBR) 6-3, 6-2 in the quarter finals. Montjane faced world no.2 Sabine Ellerbrock (GER) in the semi-finals loosing 4-6, 3-6.
SA's no 1 men's ranked player, Evans Maripa, who is no stranger to big events also participated in this event. Maripa is currently ranked world no 15, and lost to the world no 5, Maikel Scheffers (NED), 6-1, 6-1 in the second round. Although Maripa did not play for a title, he is causing waves on the tour, and is considered one of the biggest talents on the men's circuit.
SA Sport Awards winners Kgothatso Montjane and Lucas Sithole along with Evans Maripa will now be competing in the Melbourne Open from 16-19 January 2014. Sithole and Montjane will play in the Australian Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships Grand Slam in Melbourne 22-25 January 2014.
South African Sports Awards Coach of the year 2013; Holger Losch says: "I am very pleased and proud that our SA stars have started 2014 focused, successful, and winning. The Australian tour is always a hard one as it is hot, humid, and very early in the year. Lucas is showing he is hungry and determined, and the Super Series win puts him one step closer to his goal of being World no 1 this year. I am equally excited about the way Kgothatso is playing. She had a few tough months, but she is back to the game which helped he beat the world no 1 in 2013. I also anticipate big things from Kgothatso this year." Losch added, "With players like Kgothatso, Lucas and Evans, our next goal is to have a world no 1 in all three open categories at the same time. This will be a world first, and an unbelievable achievement for ourselves and our sponsor, Airports Company South Africa. We urge you to watch Lucas, Kgothatso and Evans as they make history, and make SA proud. "
Wheelchair Tennis South Africa and Airports Company South Africa Partnership:
Airports Company South Africa is the official sponsor of Wheelchair Tennis South Africa. The company is committed to a continued investment in the sport as its flagship Corporate Social Investment programme and through this partnership; the company hopes to produce more achievers like Kgothatso ahead of the 2016 Paralympic Games and beyond. Airports Company South Africa would like to encourage more young people to be inspired by the players' achievement and get involved in the sport.