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SA tournaments seen as brilliant Paralympic preparation
- Updated: April 12, 2016
The success of the two recent back-to-back international top flight wheelchair tennis tournaments staged in Benoni and Ellis Park Tennis Stadium saw the world’s best players sing praises to South Africa and a great inclination from the country’s aces ahead of the Paralympics.
Australian world number one Dylan Alcott, who celebrated back-to-back victories in the quads singles at the Gauteng Open and SA Open on his first visit to South Africa chanted a great flatter, saying these were the best tournaments and he will definitely come back.
‘It’s my first time in South Africa and I will come back because I have enjoyed myself here. The tournaments organizers have been nothing but great to all the Aussies,’ said Alcott.
The quad ace, who also clinched the SA Open quads doubles title with fellow Aussie Heath Davidson, also enjoyed a game drive in the Pilanesberg in the North West Province.
‘The trip to South Africa has been absolutely unforgettable,’ the 25-year-old Melbourne resident added. ‘I’m going home with three trophies and I saw the Big Five on the game drive in the Pilanesberg; it doesn’t get much better than this.’
Three times SA Open champion Stephane Houdet was among players who applauded the country for staging triumphant events. ‘I love coming to South Africa because they stage pre-eminent tournaments and competing here is great. Hopefully I can come back and make it a third double next year.
‘Everyone has been great, the media coverage and organisers, it always make us feel like we are able-bodied tennis players,’ added the world number one.
The two International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments, which form part of the UNIQLO Wheelchair tennis tour, attracted the world’s top 10 in both the men and women and top seven in the quads divisions.
The events, sponsored by the Airports Company South Africa, served as good Paralympic preparation for the country’s leading wheelchair tennis players Lucas Sithole, Kgothatso ‘KG’ Montjane and Evans Maripa.
The Rio games in September will be Montjane’s third Paralympics with the Limpopo player having competed at Beijing and London and the second for Sithole and Maripa, who contested the London event in 2012.
All three players said the two tournaments will serve them well in preparation for the Rio games.
‘My bigger goal is Rio. I’m working on a lot of stuff to prepare for the Paralympics and the two tournaments prepared me very well especially getting a challenge from all the top five in the world. I now know that I’m in pretty much the best shape I’ve ever been and I just need to polish some things,’ said world No8 Montjane.
With qualification for this year’s Paralympics closing on 23 May, some of the country’s players, including former world number one junior Mariska Venter (world number 29) and Leon Els (world number 29) are in Israel to take part in an ITF level 3 tournament.
The tournament started on Monday in Ramat Hasharon and the two together with Bongani Dlamini (world number 26) and Danny Mohlamonyane (world number 29) hope to solidify their positions in the world rankings and hopefully will make their way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in September.
Picture of Sithole courtesy of Reg Caldecott