Johannesburg - South Africa’s wheelchair tennis ace Kgothatso “KG” Montjane has once again pleaded with authorities to give more support to the sport.
Montjane made history at Wimbledon two weeks ago by becoming the first black South African woman to reach a singles final and back-to-back finals in a Grand Slam.
The 35-year-old faced off against Dutch ace Diede de Groot in the Wimbledon singles final, where she eventually lost, while Montjane and her partner Lucy Shuker battled in the women’s doubles wheelchair final where they lost in straight sets.
While she may have fallen at the final hurdle in both of her finals, she has received widespread praise with even President Cyril Ramaphosa heaping praise on her.
While thrilled, Montjane believes more support is needed if tennis players like herself are to succeed at the highest level.
“It really warmed my heart to see a lot of people cheering for me,” Montjane told the Saturday Star.
“I really felt the love but I hope they don’t only cheer from the screen but also realise that support is needed for tennis in this country. There are a whole lot of talented athletes in this country who need support to get to the top. I wish I knew what my achievement means to my country, but I can only hope it brings change and support into the sport.”
Asked how it felt to be congratulated by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Montjane simply says: “It was the right thing to do.”
“I think it’s only right of the president to acknowledge the good that we try to do as South Africans.”
Aside from support, the tennis ace says better infrastructure and financial support is needed for players in the country so that they can challenge their overseas counterparts.
“Our overseas competitors definitely have an advantage. We struggle quite a lot in Africa. Funding remains the biggest challenge to most tennis players in Africa,” says Montjane.
Speaking of her historical achievement at Wimbledon last weekend, she says it was a dream come true to compete at a Grand Slam final.
“Playing at my first ever Grand Slam final just gave me hope on how possible it is to really win a Grand Slam and to have reached my first final at Wimbledon, it really gave me a sense of fulfilment.
“Wimbledon is one tournament with great history and tradition and it just feels special to have even played the final on court 1.”
Despite some nerves, Montjane says she went into both finals with full confidence believing that she could win.
“Of course I had nerves and it was good nerves. I believe every athlete who cares about every single match they have to play , goes through those nerves. They were good nerves. Honestly I believed that I could do well in the finals. There is no moment where I play a match and I’m already uncertain of what can happen.
“I have to believe I can do better in any match I play in. I’m not the one to lose a match before I play it.”
Montjane says she hopes her success can be used as a catalyst to inspire other athletes in the country.
“For me it’s always about giving hope to the next generation. I want them to believe they can do whatever they want to do in life despite what life throws at them. It’s great to know that I’m the first black woman to have done that and I wish to see many more.”
Montjane credits her hard work and determination for reaching her first Grand Slam final.
“This time I went into Wimbledon with a new wheelchair, perhaps it helped, but I know I always work hard to make sure that I get further in every tournament I play in. I actually stayed in the UK for a good three weeks to train with other top players and I think it helped me going into Wimbledon.”
She adds that she has taken plenty of inspiration from reaching this year’s finals, and will use it to motivate her going forward.
“To me every loss is a lesson and in that particular loss there were plenty to take home with, lots of positives. Dealing with the losses wasn't difficult because I’m always ready to learn from it.
“I’m not devastated. I know there are still more opportunities to come. I learnt from those losses and I have moved on. Now , I am focused on what’s next for me. The experience just made me realise how possible it is to win a Grand Slam and that I can actually do it.
“ I’m always hungry to do better. In life I learnt that success doesn’t only come in wins only but also in accomplishments.”
Montjane says that she’s had little time to relax after the gruelling demands of competing at a Grand Slam.
“I really wish I could say I have been relaxing, because I have just been recovering from all the strains of a grass court. I’m doing okay after that loss, I lost nothing but gained a lot from that match.”