Players rally around wheelchair tennis

Meshack Motloung

Meshack Motloung

Patrick Selepe, South Africa's second-ranked men's wheelchair tennis player, believes the game is fast becoming popular in the country.

Selepe said this during the Johannesburg Open played at the University of Johannesburg last week.

The outspoken Selepe, who works as a development officer for local governing body Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA), said the sport has progressed immeasurably in a short time and hopes that it will be among the top sports in the near future.

"There is a great deal of interest in wheelchair tennis, especially in previously disadvantaged areas," Selepe said.

"You will notice that mainstream tennis is predominantly played by white players, with very few players of colour coming through.

"It is the opposite with wheelchair tennis, where our development programmes are reaching everyone."

Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), sponsors of the tournament, has been involved in wheelchair tennis for the past three years and its support has assisted local players to get the vital ranking points needed to qualify for the Beijing Paralympics and other international events.

"We are very grateful to ACSA for their continued support. However, more financial backing is needed if we are to compete successfully against our overseas counterparts," Selepe said.

With this year being an Olympic year and the Paralympics forming part of the spectacle, Wheelchair Tennis South Africa will be pinning their medal aspirations on South Africa's number one ranked tennis player, Kgothatso Montjane.

The University of Venda student received a wild card entry to represent the country in Beijing after consistent performances at local and international events.