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World’s stars will head to SA for wheelchair events

The best of the best wheelchair tennis stars have confirmed their entries for the upcoming Airports Company South Africa series to be played in Benoni and Johannesburg next month.

No less than 23 of the world’s top ten ranked players have entered the series representing 17 countries. These include two world number one players, Sabine Ellerbrock (Germany) in the women’s singles and David Wagner (USA) in the Quads.

Both back to back tournaments forms part of the prestigious International Tennis Federation (ITF) NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour and other than prize money, the players will be battling on court for all important world ranking points.

The first tournament, the Grade 1 Airports Company South Africa Gauteng Open will be played from 23-27 April at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni Lake. The second is the Airports Company South Africa SA Open, one of six Super Series events which will be played from 29 April-2 May at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg.

Each tournament will host a men’s, women’s, quads and juniors event.

Top players entered include, in the men’s event, world No2 Stephane Houdet of France. Houdet is closing in on top ranked men’s player Shingo Kuneida of Japan who Houdet beat in five finals last year. Houdet’s five titles in 2013 include Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. Houdet is the defending ACSA SA Open champion.

Houdet’s stiffest competition should come from world No3 Gordon Reid of Great Britain. Reid lost to Houdet in last year’s Airports Company South Africa SA Open final and won gold at the London Paralympics.

South Africa’s top ranked men’s player, Evan Maripa, ranked 15th in the world will be South Africa’s best hope in the men’s singles.

In the women’s events world champion Sabine Ellerbrock, who won the Australian Open in January of this year, will be strongly challenged by world No4 and five Aniek Van Koot and Marjolein Buis both of the Netherlands. Van Koot was last year’s world No1 and is the defending US Open champion where she beat Ellerbrock in the final. Buis is the defending Airports Company South Africa SA Open champion. The local hopes for the women’s title will rest on KG Montjane who is ranked seventh in the world.

South African quad star Lucas Sithole, ranked second in the world, will be the biggest competition to the world’s top quad player David Wagner in the quads event. Wagner who won the Australian Open earlier this year over Sithole lost to the South African in the final of last year’s US Open.

Andrew Lapthorne of Great Britain, ranked third in world quad’s, will be a player both Wagner and Sithole will have to watch carefully in the draw. Lapthorne beat Sithole in the Ellis Park final last year.

The junior event will be dominated by SA players who are dominating the world rankings. The entry is headed by world No4 Thato Tsomole of Hartebeesport, North West Province with fellow South African’s Sean-Liam de Hilster and Thando Hlatswayo being his strongest opposition.

As a bonus to the series, both tournaments will be hosting a mixed event which is new to world wheelchair tennis. The aim of hosting the mixed event is to assist the ITF in preparation for the first ever mixed wheelchair tennis event being played at the next Paralympics in Brazil.


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