The International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Friday announced the full list of singles entries for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Tennis Event at the Olympic Tennis Centre in Barra Olympic Park on 9-16 September. Among the stars who qualified are four South African aces, two-time Grand Slam champion Lucas Sithole, the country’s top women’s player Kgothatso Montjane, the world number nineteen 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 not above 52 and female players had to have achieved a ranking of not above 32 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 16 and 34 respectively in the open men’s division, while Kgothatso Montjane and Lucas Sithole had obtained rankings of 8 and 3 respectively in the women and quads divisions.
Kgothatso Montjane, the world number nine in the women’s division has once again put South Africa in the record books qualifying for the 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 made her way to the London Paralympic Games in 2012.
The world number three 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 number one Evans Maripa make his second 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 number two Leon Els in the men’s division. Els was ranked number 38 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.”