Playing a tournament at home in front of your own fans is always an advantage. For South African wheelchair tennis stars Lucas Sithole, Evans Maripa and Kgothatso (KG) Montjane the two upcomingwheelchair tennis tournaments will give the local players a definite advantage and a chance to earn valuable points to improve their respective international world rankings. This week the Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open will be staged at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni from 8 to 12 April this will be followed by the Airport Company South Africa SA Open hosted by the “grand old lady” of South African tennis, Ellis Park Johannesburg 14 to 18 April.
Evans Maripa of Limpopo, South Africa’s number one-ranked player will be hoping to improve his current world ranking of 12 after both tournaments. Maripa who did not play in Benoni last year and lost in the first round in Johannesburg last year has been hard at work preparing for the events. For Montjane also from Limpopo the opportunity of improving her world ranking is a priority to enable her to qualify for the majors this year.
The South African number one women’s player has seen her ranking slip slightly to number 9 over the past year from her highest ever ranking of 5 (June 2013). In 2014 Montjane did well to reach the final where she was beaten by the favoured Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany. A Week later Montjane made it as far as the semi-finals of the Super Series Airports Company South Africa SA Open.
Without doubt South Africa’s number one quad player Lucas Sithole of KwaZulu-Natal will need to overcome a struggling past few months in order to reach the final or better so that Sithole can regain his position in the top three of the world rankings. In Benoni Sithole will be comforted by the fact that world number three Andrew Lapthorn of Great Britain will not be in the draw. It is likely as a result that Sithole will be seeded second behind world number one David Wagner, which should give him a chance of reaching the final there.
However Lapthorn has entered the Airports Company South Africa SA Open the following week which will make Sithole’s challenge for the title at Ellis Park more difficult. However Sithole has beaten both Wagner and Lapthorn in the past three years and if he finds his true form he should have a shot at taking the titles in both weeks. Other than Maripa, Montjane and Sithole, there will be a host of other south Africans playing both tournaments which is why Wheelchair Tennis South Africa decided on hosting both events to give the game a boost and it’s players opportunities.
Photo by Reg Caldecott/Gallo Images