Lucas Sithole (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Four South African tennis players are among the final list of singles entries for the Rio Paralympics, which begin in August this year.
This after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced the full list of entries for the event at the Olympic Tennis Centre in Barra Olympic Park on 9-16 September.
The South Africans are two-time Grand Slam champion Lucas Sithole, the country’s top women’s player Kgothatso Montjane, world No 19 Evans Maripa and first-time qualifier Leon Els.
Qualification for the Games was no mean feat.
To qualify for the open section of the Games, male players had to be ranked 52nd or higher and female players had to have achieved a ranking of 32nd or higher in the world, and only the top 16 players on the quads rankings are granted entry into their section of the draw.
As of 23 May this year, Evans Maripa and Leon Els had rankings of 16th and 34th respectively in the open men’s division, while Kgothatso Montjane and Lucas Sithole had obtained rankings of eighth and third respectively in the women’s and quads divisions.
Montjane, the world No 9 in the women’s division has once again put South Africa in the record books, qualifying for her third Paralympic games this year in Rio. The 30-year-old was the only player who represented the country at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008 and also made her way to the London Paralympic Games in 2012.
The world No 3 quad ace Lucas Sithole who recently enjoyed a tour in Japan reaching the Japan Open singles and doubles semi-finals withdrew in the French Open this week due to a bad fever. The Paralympics qualification this year marks Sithole’s second after he competed in the London Paralympic Games in 2012.
Like Sithole, the ever-positive South African No 1 Evans Maripa make his second Games this year after enjoying a great experience at the London Paralympic Games in 2012.
The 25-year-old this year qualified with the country’s No 2 Leon Els in the men’s division. Els was ranked 38th in April this year and used the opportunity to play in Russia and Hungary to break into the top 34.
Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA) expressed their joy and excitement for once again witnessing the greatness of their players who qualified for Rio.
"We are really proud to confirm that these athletes have qualified for the Paralympics later this year.
"The four players are hugely committed to the sport and we at WTSA are confident that they will give their best when given the opportunity to play in Rio."