JOHANNESBURG – South African wheelchair tennis sensation Kgothatso Montjane says reaching the final of the Wimbledon women’s singles final on Sunday, gives her the confidence to aim for a medal at the Paralympics in Tokyo next month.
The 35-year-old lost in straight sets 6-2 6-2 to Dutch top seed Diede de Groot, but after becoming the first black South African woman to compete in the trophy match in London was a point of massive pride.
“It was a great milestone for me. I’ve been struggling to do better as a player,” said Montjane.
“For the past four years it’s been about preparing for the Paralympics. Playing Wimbledon was with one eye on the Paralympics, and giving hope to my fellow Africans and South Africans. Being out here is about being an ambassador and inspiring the young generation.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa even sent a message of encouragement to Montjane before the final.
Kgothatso Montjane plays her first grand slam singles final @Wimbledon today. @KGMontjane1 may the serves be sound and the forehands flow as you continue to fly the flag. You will have your coach and the entire country with you. You’ve already made us proud. Let’s ace this one!🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/nA5dMuMn92— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) July 11, 2021
With the runner-up finish at Wimbledon, Montjane will also receive a crucial seeding at the Paralympics which takes place from August 24 to September 5.
“The plan for the Paralympics was to make sure that I’m seeded. That box has been ticked. At Wimbledon, I was taking it like I would every match at the Paralympics. The opportunity came for me to reach the final, and that could be like reaching a Paralympic final.
“Now I know it’s very possible to reach the podium at the Paralympics. I don’t care what colour medal I get, and this performance at Wimbledon was such a confidence-booster.”
Though Montjane struggled to compete with her much-fancied opponent De Groot in the final, she said would dearly like to go one step further in the future.
“I needed to prove to myself that I could push harder. My last conversation before I left South Africa in May, was something like “Imagine I win Wimbledon.” And it wasn’t too long ago that not even in my wildest dreams I thought I’d make the final at Wimbledon. But, I’ve always wanted to win a Grandslam and I want to know what that feels like. This is not the end.”
Montjane also hoped to be a source of inspiration for the new generation of SA wheelchair tennis players rising through the ranks.
“Sometimes you just have to forget about your background and challenges to dig deeper. If you love what you do, you will excel. The dream has to be bigger and scarier for you to achieve it. I hope the new generation knows their dreams are valid and if you keep working they will come true.”
African News Agency (ANA)