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Venter wins as SA wheelchair tennis players in French action

Our top wheelchair tennis players were in action in France recently, where they took part in the Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters in Tarbes.

Only the world’s top 12 juniors players ÔÇô eight boys and four girls ÔÇô were invited to play in this premier event with South Africa contributing three of the world top 12 players. They were Mariska Venter, Gift Lekhanyane, Thato Tsomole and coach Rene Plant.

The event was played in a round robin format with the eight boys being divided into two groups. South Africa’s exciting and very talented Thato Tsomole from Hartebeespoort faced the World No1 and defending champion Alfie Hewett of Great Britain in his opening match.

It was the first time 16-year-old Tsomole, currently ranked World No5, was exposed to this level of competition, with Hewett taking the match 6-0 6-1. Tsomole also faced Carlos Anker of the Netherland on the opening day losing the match 6-0 6-0. The third encounter was against the 13-year-old Martin de la Puente of Spain, where the young Spaniard also won the match 6-0 6-1.

In Group 2, our world No2 junior Gift Lenkganye was paired up against Hussein Hamid Hel of Iraq and Chris Herman of USA on Day One. Although Lenkganye played well, he lost to the young American, and played the only three-set match on the opening day against Hamid Hel. Lekganyane won the first set 7-5 after which Hamid  Hel seemed to settle down and only dropped one game in the next two sets to claim a 5-7, 6-0, 6-1 victory.

Lekganyane then faced world No3 Nico Langmann from Austria, where a 6-4 6-1 win over Lekganyane secured Langmann a  place in the semi-finals.

The girls singles draw was made up of a field of the top four junior girls in the world including South Africa’s Mariska Venter. Vetner was first up against 16-year-old Diede de Groot of the Netherlands where she┬áwas defeated 6-2 6-4.

One of SA’s most exciting young talents, Venter recovered well, and posted the first win for the South African delegation, beating┬áPolina Shakirova of Russia 2-6 6-4 6-2.┬áArmed with one win and one loss┬á Venter now faced two-time champion Angelica Bernal from Colombia.

It was not only pride at stake, but both were coming to the match with a win and a lost ÔÇô it was the ultimate decider.

Both players brought their A-game to the court, but experience allowed the defending champion Bernal to secure a 6-3 6-3 victory over Venter.

Alfie Hewett (GBR) and Diede de Groot (NED) wheeled away with the prestigious titles after defeating Carlos Anker (NED) 6-0 6-1 and Angelica Bernal (COL) 6-0 6-2 in the finals.

ÔÇ£Although we did not play for any of the titles, or walk way with either trophy, it was a proud achievement for WTSA to have one quarter of the world’s top junior in our camp, said Wheelchair Tennis SA manager Karen Losch.

“We believe we have the talent, have the players, and have the programmes. I am sure we will dominate this and other junior events in time. Congratulations to our juniors, you did us proud.ÔÇØ


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