LUCAS SITHOLE HAS A DATE WITH DESTINY
South Africa’s irrepressible triple amputee sports star, Lucas Sithole, has one thing on his mind at the moment – regaining his Gauteng Open and South African Open wheelchair tennis singles titles next month.
South Africa is once again to play host to two prestigious wheelchair tennis tournaments, with many of the world’s top wheelchair tennis players competing for world ranking points.
The Airports Company South Africa Gauteng will be played at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni from April 8 to April 12.
This will be followed by the Airports Company South Africa SA Open, which will be played at South Africa’s premier tennis venue, Ellis Park, from April 14 to April 18.
The SA Open is an International Tennis Federation (ITF) Super Series event. There are only six Super Series tournaments, the others being played in Australia, France, Japan, Britain and the United States, and it says much for the status of wheelchair tennis in South Africa that the country has been accorded such an honour.
Sithole made history in 2013 when he won the US Open title to become the first African in 40 years to win a Grand Slam.
Tragedy hit Sithole when he was 12 years old. He lost both legs and his right arm when he fell under a train – a setback that would overwhelm most people, but he says going to school with other disabled children helped him to come to terms with what had happened to him.
In 2005, he was invited to a wheelchair tennis camp, when the sport was launched in South Africa. Sithole took to tennis like a duck to water, and the following year, he represented South Africa for the first time. Although he was badly beaten in his first outing, he has gone from strength to strength since then.
Earlier this year, Sithole, who is ranked four in the world, finished runner-up in the Sydney International Wheelchair Tennis Super Series tournament, after losing to world number two, Dylan Alcott of Australia in the quad finals. He and Alcott then teamed up together to take the quad doubles title.
Sithole – known to his rivals as “Twister” – has made history in many ways, including becoming the first disabled sportsman to be nominated as Sports Star of the Year at the SA Sports Awards in 2013. He wants to carry on making history, and he has his eyes on a medal at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
But first, he has a date with destiny in Benoni and at Ellis Park next month.
“I always enjoy playing tournaments at home in front of my home crowd and fans” said Sithole. “I am working hard at doing well in Benoni and Johannesburg which will enable me to improve my ranking and qualify for the bigger events later this year and early in 2016” continued Sithole.
Sithole admitted that the competition would be tough in both tournaments. “I am expecting David Wagner my arch rival from America to enter the South African swing of the wheelchair tennis tour so I will have to be on top of my game to have any chance of lifting both or one of the titles.”
Airports Company South Africa spokesperson Unathi Batyashe-Fillis says: “We are pleased to be associated with an event that celebrates and showcases exceptional talent. Our support of the Airports Company South Africa SA Open 2015 affirms our commitment to empowering South Africans by making a positive contribution to socio-economic development. Airport Company South Africa’s partnership with Wheelchair Tennis South Africa has increased the public’s awareness and knowledge of the sport.”