Johannesburg - Two-time grand slam champion Lucas Sithole is gearing up for the prestigious UNIQLO Wheelchair Doubles Masters tournament, which starts on Wednesday and ends on November 26.
The prestigious International Tennis Federation (ITF) year-end event takes place in Bemmel in the Netherlands. It is the first time that Bemmel will host the championship for the world’s leading wheelchair doubles players.
Sithole (31) is South Africa’s top quad ace and is ranked number four globally. This is the first time he will take part in the auspicious doubles event.
He will partner with Australia’s Heath Davidson.
Sithole and Davidson have had a successful pairing, having clinched the Swiss Open quads doubles title in 2016 and reached the British Open doubles semifinal this year.
In April, Sithole won the SA Open Singles title at Ellis Park Tennis Stadium in Johannesburg, beating Israel’s Itay Erenlib.
The three-time winner of the SA Sportsman of the Year with a Disability award also reached the French Open semifinals in June.
Other South African stars who will be looking to bring trophies home are Kgothatso Montjane and Evans Maripa.
Montjane, who is the country’s leading women’s player, will be looking to battle it out alongside partner Charlotte Famin from France for the first time since 2013.
Montjane and Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock were finalists in 2013, and the world number eight will be eyeing the title this year.
Combined doubles rankings
Meanwhile, Maripa – who won the 2017 title of Gauteng Sportsman of the Year with a Disability – will partner with France’s Frédéric Cattaneo in the men’s event. Maripa reached the semifinal round in 2014 with Japanese player Shingo Kunieda.
The top eight men’s doubles pairings, the top six women’s doubles pairings and the top four quad doubles pairings to enter – based on combined doubles rankings on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Rankings of October 9 – make up the field for the event.
After the doubles year-end championship, Sithole and Montjane will move on to represent South Africa in the much-anticipated NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters, which will be held for the first time at Loughborough University in England from November 29 to December 3. The event will be hosted by the Tennis Foundation, Great Britain’s leading tennis charity, for the fourth successive year.
The NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters invites the top eight men and women, as well as the top six quad players, to compete at the ITF’s year-end championship for the top-ranked singles players.
Sithole is hoping for a win after he was denied the title in 2013 and 2015 by world number one, America’s David Wagner.
“I am very confident going into the Masters this year, after missing it last year because of illness,” said Sithole.