Lucas Sithole Remains South Africa’s Last Tennis Hope At Paralympics

Written by Peter Pedroncelli

South African world number three and two-time Grand Slam Champion Lucas Sithole is on course for a podium finish if he continues his form at the Rio Paralympic Games on Monday in his semifinal clash.

The number three seed in the quads singles event is the only South African left in the tennis discipline at the Games.

Kgothatso Montjane and Evans Maripa saw their Paralympic campaign cut short after defeats to China’s Zhenzhen Zhu and Takuya Miki from Japan respectively at the Rio Paralympics wheelchair tennis event on Sunday evening, while Leon Els was also knocked out of the tournament.

Eight seeded Montjane was expected to find a way past her Chinese opponent in the women’s singles second round on Sunday at Olympic Tennis Centre, having played some impressive tennis when she opened her account against Miho Nijo from Japan on Saturday.

However the South African world number nine, who had the weight of the African continent on her shoulders as its only female competitor was denied a chance at a medal and suffered a hard-fought three-set 6-4 4-6 7-5 defeat to Zhu.

The 30-year-old Montjane fought back after dropping the first set, 4-6, before winning the second-set, but after long rallies, Zhu clinched the deciding set 7-5.

In the men’s singles event, the 26-year-old Evans Maripa pressed and fought but ultimately failed to progress from the Paralympic second round against number ten seed Japanese Takuya Miki.

The South African world number 17 lost 7-6(1) 7-5 against the Japanese world number 10. Maripa fought back to 5-5 from 5-3 down in the second set and saved two match points, but was finally undone as Miki immediately took two games to win the match.

Later in the day, Maripa joined forces with compatriot Leon Els against Gustavo Fernandez and Agustin Ledesma in the men’s doubles. Despite their fighting spirit, the South African duo were ousted after losing 7-5 6-2 to the Argentinian pair in a match that took an hour and 45 minutes.

Lucas Sithole still in with a chance

Third seed quad ace Sithole is the last remaining South African player in the draw following the exits of Leon Els, Evans Maripa and Kgothatso Montjane, and the pressure will be on for him to progress and be sure of a medal in Rio.

Sithole will be looking to advance to the final on Monday but faces tough opposition from Australian world number one Dylan Alcott in the semifinal.

Sign up for the Moguldom newsletter — business news you need to know about economic empowerment for the digital age, delivered to your inbox.