Wheelchair star Sithole gears up for SA Open

first_img19 March 2014South African wheelchair tennis superstar Lucas Sithole is hard at work preparing for next month’s Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) Autumn tournament series to be hosted in Gauteng. The quad ace made history last year when he won the US Open.For the first time since his memorable memorable title win in New York, he will be playing at the highest level on home soil and is excited and optimistic about his chances.Sithole will be a major draw-card at the tournaments, and he is hoping South Africans will turn out in their numbers to support him and the other South Africans taking part.‘Good to play at home’“I am looking forward to the two tournaments,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is always good to play at home in our conditions and in front of our fans.“I believe my game has improved since last year’s tournament, and I hope to do better this year, and lift the title.”TournamentsThe first of the two tournaments is the Acsa Gauteng Open, to be played at the Gauteng East Tennis Centre at Benoni Lake from 23 to 27 April. It is a grade one event, and one of only 13 such tournaments in the world.Top international players are expected to participate in it, in preparation for the even more prestigious Acsa SA Open, which takes place at Ellis Park in Johannesburg from 20 to 23 April. The tournament has Super Series status and is one of only six such tournaments. The others are played in Australia, France, Japan, Britain and the United States.Loss of limbsWhen he was only 12 years of age, Sithole lost both legs and his right arm when he fell under a train. That setback would have overwhelmed most people, but he said going to school with other disabled children helped him to come to terms with what had happened to him.In 2005, he was invited to a wheelchair tennis camp, when the sport was launched in South Africa. Sithole took to the sport like a duck to water, and the following year he represented South Africa for the first time.World number twoAlthough he was badly beaten in his first outing, he has gone from strength to strength since then. He is currently ranked second in the world and has two Super Series titles and a Grand Slam title to his name.Earlier this year, he reached the final of the Australian Open in Melbourne, losing to arch rival and world number one, David Wagner.History makerSithole, who is known to his rivals as “Twister”, has made history in many ways, including becoming the first disabled sportsperson to be nominated as Sports Star of the Year at the SA Sports Awards last year.He wants to carry on making history, and he has his eyes set on a medal at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. However, his immediate aim is to claim the South African Open title.SAinfo reporterlast_img

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