SOUTH AFRICAN TRIO HEADED DOWN UNDER FOR THREE MAJOR TOURNAMENTS
Top South African wheelchair tennis aces, Kgothatso Montjane, Lucas Sithole and Evans Maripa jetted off on Saturday evening to Australia to represent the country in three major season opening international tennis tournaments from January 9-27.
World number 7 women’s player Montjane will be hoping to have another magical run at the Sydney Wheelchair Tennis Open, an International Tennis Federation (ITF) Super Series event to be staged from January 9-13. The 31-year-old impressed in 2016 demolishing world number 3 Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock in a stunning 6-4 7-6(5) to reach the singles semi-final round. The Limpopo-born star also bagged the doubles title with Ellerbrock.
World number 2 quad ace Lucas Sithole and the country’s leading men’s player Evans Maripa will also be hoping for a better finish after they lost in the singles semi-final and second round respectively.
The trio will move on to the Melbourne Open, an ITF level 1 event which will take place from January 16-20 in Melbourne. Sithole and Montjane will battle it out this year for titles after both finished as runners-up in the quads and women’s division respectively. The 27-year-old Maripa who lost to the current world number 2 men’s player Alfie Hewett from Britain in 2016 has been hard at work on court and said he was happy with his performance ahead of the Australian tour.
“I am gradually growing as a player considering some of the personal challenges that I had to face a few years back. I managed to reach my goal of getting into the top 12 globally and now I am working hard to break into the top 7, so overall I am happy with my performance,” commented Maripa.
When Sithole and Maripa return home after the Melbourne Open, Montjane will go on to represent the country in the much-anticipated Australian Open Grand Slam tournament, joining the top names who will line-up for the four days of competition at the first major on the 2018 UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, which will be held from January 24 to 27 at Melbourne Park.
If the 31-year-old can continue her recent form – she started the last season as world number 10 and moved up 3 spots to number 7, clinched 6 titles including the Swiss Open in the last season, upset two of the top 6 ranked players – a return to the Top 5 of the rankings may just be in the cards for the Limpopo star.