Cape Town – Just months after scooping a major award at the SA Sports Awards, wheelchair tennis star Lucas Sithole has already won his first title of the year.
The world No 2 took top honours in the Apia Sydney International Wheelchair Open, which concluded this week.
Sithole had a great year last year, winning the quads singles title at the British Open in July, and becoming the first South African to win a US Open Grand Slam singles title, in September.
He was also runner-up in the NEC World Singles Masters in November.
Although Sithole won the Sydney title, it was not all smooth sailing. He had a shaky start, losing his first match, but he stayed focused and won all the other round robin matches comfortably, including the quads singles final against Britain’s world No 7 Antony Cotterill 6-1, 6-3.
His superb performance and comfortable victories secured him the title, which was determined on a set count.
His compatriot, Kgothatso Montjane, ranked No 6 internationally, reached the semi-finals in the women’s draw by defeating Janel Manns (Australia) 6-0, 6-2 in the first round, and Jordanne Whiley (UK) 6-3, 6-2 in the quarter-finals. Montjane faced world No 2 Sabine Ellerbrock (Germany) in the semi-finals, losing 4-6, 3-6.
South Africa’s No 1-ranked men’s player, Evans Maripa, who is no stranger to big events, also participated. Ranked No 15 in the world, he lost to world No 5 Maikel Scheffers (Netherlands) 6-1, 6-1 in the second round. Although Maripa did not play for a title, he is making waves on the tour, and is widely considered one of the biggest talents on the men’s circuit.
Sithole and Montjane will play in the Australian Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships Grand Slam in Melbourne from Wednesday to next Saturday.