FILE - South Africa's wheelchair tennis star Alwande Sikhosana. Photo: Reg Caldecott
FILE - South Africa's wheelchair tennis star Alwande Sikhosana. Photo: Reg Caldecott

SA wheelchair star Alwande Sikhosana, a world-beater in the making

By Herman Gibbs Time of article published Jan 8, 2022

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Cape Town — South Africa have produced a host of wheelchair tennis stars over the past two decades, and now Alwande Sikhosana, a former world No 2 ranked junior, is the latest rising star on the landscape.

The 21-year-old University of Pretoria (Tuks) student has made prodigious strides in the past three months, with two victories over two world top-20 players. As a result, he has moved from 76 to 48 on the world rankings.

He is hoping to break into the world top 20 in the next six months.

Sikhosana first served notice of his world-class potential in 2017 when he stunned four-time Soweto Open champion, Leon Els, to win his first men's singles title at Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto. Els had a career-high ITF singles ranking of 29 at the time.

It was a major career breakthrough for the player who hails from rural KwaZulu-Natal. Wheelchair Tennis South Africa realised that Sikhosana was a star in the making and provided a host of competition opportunities for him on the international circuit.

Wheelchair Tennis South Africa which had previously operated as a separate entity with great success was absorbed into Tennis South Africa (TSA) in 2019. Since then, TSA and Tuks have combined forces to ensure that Sikhosana keeps his dream alive of being a world-beater. He is part of TSA's high-performance wheelchair programme, based at TuksSport in Pretoria.

Sikhosana has just come off a six-week tour of Turkey, where he participated with outstanding success after back-to-back wins over two world to-20 players. He ended 2021 breaking into the world- top-50 with a career-high ranking of 48.

In mid-November, he started the tour of Turkey with a bang at the Hulya Avsar Open in Antalya Province. He surprised all and sundry by winning his first international singles title in a senior tournament. It was his first senior title in four years after he won Soweto Open 2017 as a junior.

He looked to be on target for a double after he and his 23-year-old partner Ho Won Im from Korea, the top seeds, had reached the semi-finals. As a result of incessant rain, the doubles competition could not be completed.

Next, it was on to the Aksa Dogalgaz Open, an outdoor clay ITF Futures tournament in Aksa Doğalgaz. There Alwande's effort to reach the final was cut short by his doubles partner Korean Ho Won Im, who won a marathon three-hour battle in the semi-finals. The Korean is world-ranked 46th and has a career-high 23 berth.

The two rivals teamed for the doubles, which they won.

Early December, Sikhosana embarked on a third Turkish event, the Antalya Open, an ITF 3 Series tournament. There the unseeded Sikhosana finished runner-up to Japanese second seed Tokito Oda, the world No 13.

On his way to the championship round (SUBS: the final), Sikhosana produced two stunning performances, which accounted for back-to-back wins against top-20 players. In the quarter-final round, he defeated world No 9 and top seed Martin De la Puente of Spain. It was the best win of his senior career.

In the semi-final, he produced another upset, this time defeating the third-seeded Frenchman Frederic Cattaneo, the world No 19, in straight sets 6-2 6-3 to claim his spot in the singles final.

In the doubles, Sikhosana and De la Puente reached the semi-finals but the competition was aborted after bad weather.

In mid-December, Sikhosana played the MTA (Megasaray Tennis Academy) Open in Antalya and started on a promising note. Although an unseeded player, he was regarded as a dangerous opponent, and he sounded a championship warning by taking out Frederic Cattaneo, the fourth seed, in the quarter-finals with a straight-sets win.

He fell in the semis, where he was defeated by world No 10 Daniel Caverzashci.

Sikhosana joined Cattaneo in the doubles, and after defeating the top seeds Jef Vandorp from Belgium and Casey Ratzlaff from the USA, they reached the finals, where they lost to second seeds Daniel Caverzashci from Spain and Tokito Oda from Japan.

Off the field, music is his passion. He holds a diploma in audio sound engineering. He hopes to be involved in the production of television and radio advertisements and to head up the sound effects portfolio.

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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