While the country’s top players Kgothatso Montjane, Evans Maripa and Lucas Sithole are in Melbourne, Australia for the first Grand Slam of the year Australian Open, four other players jetted off to the United States on Monday. Former world number one junior Mariska Venter, Leon Els, Bongani Dlamini and Danny Mohlamonyane are representing the country at the EZMED Arizona Open, an International Tennis Federation (ITF) level 3 event in Tucson which started on Thursday, 21 to 24 January. South African women’s ace Venter is seeded second and had a bye in round one, she’s seeded to meet American Katherine Stuteville in Friday’s second round.
Meanwhile, the country number two men’s player Leon Els crashed out in the opening round after American Steve Baldwin secured a 6-7, 6-0, 6-4 win to advance to the last eight. In the quads event, Bongani Dlamini wasted little time as he defeated Mitch McIntyre of Canada 6-0, 6-1 in his first round robin match while Mohlamonyane went down 1-6 4-6 to Canadian Mika Ishikawa. They will go on to battle it out at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden Championship, also an ITF level 3 tournament at the Indian Wells from 28 – 31 January before they return home.
The two tournaments are part of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis tour which help players in gaining important international rankings to qualify for the Rio 2016 Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in September this year. Going into the events, the four stars will be hoping for glory after a successful year in 2015, both Venter and Els ended 2015 with seven titles each last year including the newly staged Mauritius Open where they took the singles and doubles titles. On the other hand the two quad compatriots Dlamini and Mohlamonyane have shown great improvement in their game and most importantly being very competitive against each other.
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