Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA) has confirmed that two international wheelchair tennis tournaments will be held in Pretoria and Soweto this season. Both are International Tennis Federation (ITF) Future level events, forming part of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis tour. The Airports Company South Africa Pretoria Open will be played from 28 June – 1 July at Rietondale Tennis Club in Pretoria, followed by the Soweto Open, to be played at Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Jabavu from 3 – 6 July.
The Futures tournaments are a crucial stepping stone for local and international players in gaining world ranking points, in order to improve their positions in the global list, which forms the basis of selection for next year’s Paralympic Games in Rio. Each tournament will include singles and doubles draws for men, women, quads and juniors. The two-week South African winter safari has attracted players from as far abroad Australia, Austria, France, Ghana, Israel, Kenya, Romania and Zimbabwe.
Notable entries include last year’s runner-up in the men’s division, Nico Langmann from Austria, Israel’s Asi Stokol and Zimbabwe’s Nyasha Mharakurwa, who represented Zimbabwe at the 2008 Paralympics and is undefeated in the last two events he has played after returning from injury. In the women’s division, Christine Schoenn of France is no stranger to South Africa and is determined to go home with the title, as well as much sought after points. South Africa will not only be represented by over 90 players across the four divisions, but the host nation boasts title hopefuls in Leon Els, Mariska Venter, Thando Hlatswayo and Bongani Dlamini.
Els, the South African number two, is the defending champion at both events and he will be eager to retain his crowns. Venter, the South African women’s Number 2, has faced stiff competition from compatriots Hlatswayo and Rose Van Der Meer in previous years, and 2015 is expected to be no different. All three South African women are hungry for the title, and the points, but they will have to fight hard to keep the experienced French player Schoenn at bay.
In the quads division, Bongani Dlamini, like Els, is looking to emulate his 2014 victory and move himself closer to the Paralympic qualification cut. In the junior division, the country’s top ranked players Alwande Skhosana and Nokwanda Hlongwane will take to the courts to solidify their positions among the top five juniors in the world. They will be put to the test in the open division, ensuring both players are groomed and ready for the 2020 and 2024 Paralympics.
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