Top wheelchair tennis events for SA

22 February 2013

South Africa will be the venue for two important tournaments on the international wheelchair tennis calendar in April when the country hosts the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) Gauteng Open and the Acsa South African Open.

The Gauteng Open is one of the 13 grade-one events played internationally during the year, and will be staged in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, from 3 to 7 April.

The tournament, important as it is in its own right, can be viewed as a warm-up for the main event, the Acsa South African Open, which is a Super Series event, one of only six that takes place globally during the year.

The Acsa SA Open will be played at Johannesburg's Ellis Park from 9 to 13 April. It will be the first time that a Super Series tournament will be staged on the African continent. The other five are played in Australia, Japan, France, Britain and the USA.

Extremely attractive

The British Open is the only other Super Series event where a grade one tournament is hosted either before or after the event. The others do not have even a grade-two or grade-three tournament as a warm-up event, so the fact that South Africa will be hosting two significant tournaments in quick succession should make it extremely attractive to top-ranked international players.

"Wheelchair Tennis SA are delighted that our Acsa SA Open has been upgraded to a Super Series event," Karen Losch, general manager of Wheelchair Tennis South Africa, said in a statement this week.

"This gives our players a golden opportunity to take on the world's best [players] in their own backyard, and we believe our players are now reaching the maturity and rankings where they could even compete for the titles in at least two of the divisions."

World class events

Acsa spokesman Solomon Makgale said: "We are proud to present two world class Wheelchair Tennis events that will not only showcase and assist to develop our exceptional talent, but will bring the world's best players to our country."

Both events will have men's and ladies draws, quads and junior events (singles and doubles).

The men's singles will feature 32 players, while the doubles will be made up of 16 pairs. There will be 24 players in the women's singles and 12 doubles teams.

The junior and quad singles will be contested by 16 players each, while there will be eight pairs in the doubles.

Leading players

Entries for the events close on 6 March, but a host of leading players have already confirmed their participation for both tournaments.

Included among them is Dutch star Maikel Scheffers, who is ranked number three in the world in singles and number nine in doubles. He reached the quarterfinals of this year's Australian Open and the semi-finals of the doubles with Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina.

American David Wagner is top of the quad rankings in singles and is number two in doubles. He won the quad section of the Australian Open.

Marjolein Buis, also from The Netherlands, will take her place in the women's draw. The 25-year-old is ranked fifth in the world in singles and reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and the final of the doubles with Lucy Shuker of Great Britain.

South Africa's leading contenders are Kgothatso Montjane, who is ranked tenth in the world in the women's singles, and Lucas Sithole, who occupies seventh place in the men's quads rankings.

SAinfo reporter

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South African number one Lucas Sithole is ranked seventh in the world in the quad division of wheelchair tennis (Photo: University of Pretoria)

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