Top wheelchair tennis for South Africa

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5 April 2012

With qualification for this year's Paralympics closing on 21 May, South Africa's leading wheelchair tennis players are assured of facing top international opposition at the forthcoming South Africa Open and Joburg Open.

The two South African events, which are sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and form part of the ITF World Wheelchair Tennis Tour, will take place back-to-back from 21 to 25 April and 27 April to 1 May.

This year, the Paralympics take place in London from 29 August to 3 September.

Tournaments

The first tournament, the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) South African Open will be played at Ellis Park. The second, the Acsa Joburg Open, will be contested at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni.

As a result of the proximity to the Paralympic cut-off, a large international and local entry is predicted.

"It's a real honour for Wheelchair Tennis South Africa and our sponsor, Acsa, to be hosting these prestigious events," Tournament Director Holger Losch said in a statement on Wednesday.

"One of our goals for 2013 is for South Africa to host a Wheelchair Super Series event. There are very few of them on the Tour and it will be a first for Africa.

Aim

"The success of the Acsa SA Open and Acsa Joburg Open will help us convince the ITF South Africa and Africa that we are ready to host a Super Series. This will also help our own players as they will be able to play at home and earn valuable world ranking points."

The men's and women's champions of last year will be back to defend their titles. Tadeusz Kruszelnicki from Poland, ranked 13th in the world, lifted the men's title in 2011, while runner-up Ben Weekes loved South Africa and is excited to come back and compete in the event again.

Women's world number-five Sabine Ellerbrock is the defending champion. She could be in for an interesting showdown with world number 10 Kgothatso Montjane of South Africa. The South African finished runner-up in 2011. She is currently in top form and will be a strong contender for the title.

World rankings

South Africa has some of the world's best players and topping that list is Montjane who is currently ranked 10th in singles and number 14 in doubles. In fact, South Africa has 10 women ranked in the top 100. Other than Montjane, Celia du Toit is ranked 30th, Rosalea van der Meer 36th, Mabel Mankgele 70th, , Tsholofelo Sibanda 74th, Siphokazi Fuma 91st, and Thado Hlatswayo 93rd.

Among the men, Sydwell Mathonsi is ranked 37th in singles and 36th in doubles. Eliphas Maripa occupies 52nd place in the singles rankings and 37th spot in the doubles rankings.

In the quads category, Lucas Sithole is in 11th place in the singles rankings and 18th in doubles.

'Golden opportunity

Acsa's Group Manager Communications Solomon Makgale commented: "The tournaments give a golden opportunity to our local talent especially in the year of the Paralympics where South Africa will be represented.

"We, as Airports Company South Africa, are honoured to be part of an initiative that has assisted in growing wheelchair tennis in the country."

SAinfo reporter

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South African wheelchair tennis star Kgothatso Montjane is ranked 10th in the world (Photo: Wheelchair Tennis South Africa)

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