Cape Town - Wheelchair tennis athletes, Donald Ramphadi and Kgothatso Montjane have given South Africans reason to smile following their victories as Grand Slam champions in their respective divisions at the prestigious Roland Garros tournament in Paris.
Ramphadi claimed the quads title and Montjane clinched victory in the women's doubles category at the weekend.
Ranked number four globally, Ramphadi displayed immense resilience alongside his doubles partner, Andy Lapthorne from Britain.
Overcoming a set deficit, they delivered a thrilling performance, defeating the second-seeded pair of Heath Davidson from Australia and Robert Shaw from Canada with a 1-6, 6-2, 10-3 victory to secure the quads doubles title.
Ramphadi expressed his elation, saying: "It was truly nerve-wracking when we began, especially after losing the first set 6-1.
“However, with an experienced partner like Lapthorne, who is a natural leader, we regained our composure.
“We remembered our strategy from our match against the top-seeded team and implemented it throughout the second and final sets."
The victory not only marked a milestone for Ramphadi but also coincided with his 30th birthday, making it an unforgettable day.
"It's a special day for me, today also being my birthday, to win my first Grand Slam. It's a day I'll never forget. It hasn't sunk in yet, but people are sending in messages, which shows the support, and that people are watching," he said.
By securing this victory, Ramphadi added his name to the history books, becoming the first male South African, both able-bodied and wheelchair, to win a French Open title since Johan Kriek accomplished the feat in 1981.
Reflecting on this remarkable milestone, Ramphadi emphasised: "It is truly amazing to hear that I am the first South African in 42 years to win the French Open. Coming from a challenging background, I am proud to serve as an example to young children in underprivileged circumstances, showing them that anything is possible when you envision it."
In another monumental achievement for South African tennis, Montjane, the country's leading women's player, joined Ramphadi on the prestigious Roland Garros podium.
Montjane, who had previously reached six doubles finals at Grand Slam tournaments between 2019 and 2022, including Roland Garros, the Australian Open, the US Open, and Wimbledon, has finally secured her well-deserved Grand Slam champion title.
Teaming up with Yui Kamiji from Japan, the duo showcased their prowess by clinching an impressive 6-2, 6-3 victory over Diede de Groot and Maria Moreno to claim the women's doubles trophy.
"It is such a great feeling and moment for me. I am really happy that I managed to win my first Grand Slam, even though it’s doubles. But it’s a moment worth living for. I have been fortunate to play both singles and doubles, so it’s an exciting time for me, and I will keep fighting for the singles title that I have been waiting for," said Montjane.
This triumph holds special significance for Montjane as it avenged her and Kamiji's defeat against De Groot and Aniek van Koot in the 2022 Roland Garros doubles final. Furthermore, the achievement establishes Montjane as the first South African woman to win a French Open title since Tanya Harford and Ros Fairbank in 1981.
"I am just grateful for the team that I have behind me because if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know how I would have bounced back from a career-threatening injury, and yet today I am here talking about a doubles Grand Slam," added Montjane.
Arts and Culture MEC, Anroux Marais, said: “We are so excited to see our South African athletes performing well and setting new records at international events. They make an important impact as role-models for our youth to show them that anything is possible if you work hard and dedicate yourself to developing your skills.”
Both players now set their sights on the French Riviera Open, an ITF Super Series event taking place from June 13-18 in Boit, France.