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SITHOLE LEADS POWER5 TO ABILITY CHALLENGE VICTORY

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Former US Open champion Lucas Sithole was full of praise for the organisers and sponsors of the Wheelchair Tennis Ability Challenge, after carrying his Power5 team to victory at O.R. Tambo International on Wednesday.

Sithole joined Themba Tshabalala, Pietie Norval and Eunice Khoza as they lifted the trophy at the fourth edition of the annual event, in the build-up to the Airports Company South Africa SA Open at Ellis Park next month.

"This was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it," Sithole said.

"It gave people another opportunity to try wheelchair tennis and it helped give the players a bit more confidence ahead of the Airports Company South Africa SA Open.

"Holding this sort of event gives the sport a lot of exposure and we can see it growing every year, which is great for wheelchair tennis."

The tournament, played in a Pro Set format, involved four teams each including a wheelchair tennis player, an able-bodied player, a celebrity and an Airports Company South Africa employee.

The Sport@10 squad (Thomas Mlambo, Paul Anderson, Kgothatso Montjane, Aletta Ngozo) secured a 4-1 win over 702 Talkers (Udo Carelse, Leon Els, Natalie Grandin, Nomzamo Yawathi) in the first round, while the Power5 team bagged a 6-4 victory over Morning Live (Vaylen Kirtley, Jared Robinson, Evans Maripa, Sonto Masina).

Power5 went on to beat Sport@10 6-4 in a thrilling final.

Norval, a former professional able-bodied player who won the French Open mixed doubles title in 1999 and the men's doubles silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games, believed events like the Wheelchair Tennis Ability Challenge were crucial in building the sport.

"Getting a chance to be in a wheelchair, it shows you how hard it is for these players to move around and I have a tremendous amount of respect for them," Norval said.

"Having Airports Company South Africa sponsoring wheelchair tennis for so many years and creating awareness like this is great for the sport of tennis in general, not just wheelchair tennis."

Kris Reddy, the General Manager at OR Tambo International Airport, hoped the partnership between Airports Company South Africa and Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA) would continue to grow.

"It is a privilege for Airports Company South Africa to be associated with Wheelchair Tennis South Africa," Reddy said.

"We support mobility and we wish to grow this partnership into the future as the sport continues to gain momentum."