Monday, 28 March 2016, Johannesburg, South Africa. – More than 120 players from 21 countries are due to line-up for South Africa’s first two tournaments of the year. The first event is an International Tennis Federation (ITF) level 1 event and the Second, an ITF Super Series tournament. Both events are sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and form part of the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour. They will take place back-to-back from 30 March to 3 April and 5 to 9 April 2016 respectively.
The first tournament, is one of the 13 grade-one events played internationally during the year, and will be staged at Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni, while the SA Open, which is one of only six Super series events taking place globally during the year will be contested at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Tennis Stadium from 5 to 9 April. It will be the fourth year the event is staged in the African continent. The other five are staged in Australia, Japan, France, Britain and the USA.
The SA Open, the penultimate Super Series event prior the close of the qualification window for Rio Paralympics has attracted the world’s top players, one of the strongest fields ever assembled for a Super Series event and will host the world’s top 11 players in the men’s, top 10 women and top 5 world quads players in the singles rankings.
Spearheading the women’s singles will be reigning Australian Open and SA Open champion, world no.1 Jiske Griffioen of the Netherlands, Japan’s world no.2 Yui Kamiji who will be making her debut on South African soil. World no.3 Aniek van Koot, the 2014 SA Open champion along with Britain’s Jordanne Whiley who will be making her second visit to South Africa since 2012, World no.5 Germany’s Sabine Ellerbrock and Gauteng Open champion Marjolein Buis of the Netherlands will be among the strongest opposition for South Africa’s Kgothatso Montjane who will run amok and stop any foreigners’ hopes of running away with the points during the event.
25-year-old Evans Maripa, the country’s top men’s player will be hoping to make his mark against the world’s top 10 ranked players who will be heading this year’s men’s singles entries. Maripa will face stiff competition from World no.1 Stephane Houdet of France who is no stranger to South Africa, Japanese Shingo Kunieda ranked no.2, SA Open defending champion Nicolas Peifer of France, and Gauteng Open champion Joachim Gerard of Belgium who are among the four world top 10 players to contest the two tournaments.
Reigning SA Open quads champion South African Lucas Sithole will be defending his title at Ellis Park next month and will be hoping to retain his crown but will face strong opposition from 25-year-old world no.1 Dylan Alcott of Australia and 2013, 2014 SA Open champion American David Wagner who are among three top ranked quads players set to contest this year’s tourney. Other players to contest the events will be world no.4 Britain’s Andy Lapthorne and Itay Erenlib of Israel.
“This year’s tournaments have attracted over 20 world top players within the women, men and quads divisions. Playing against this calibre of player on home soil in a Paralympic year is vitally important for our players as it helps players earn important points ahead of the Rio Paralympics cut-off date in May, 23, and boosts their confidence playing in front of a home crowd. We are very excited to host the best of the best in the world”, said Tournament Director Patrick Selepe.
“This is a true reflection that Wheelchair Tennis in South Africa has grown in popularity and has become one of the destinations of choice for events. When these two tournaments were first staged as few as eight countries took part but now the event caters for over 20 countries. We urge everyone to come down to Benoni and Ellis Park Tennis Stadium to watch the world’s best players in action and enjoy the exciting two weeks of elite sport”, added Selepe.