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TSA pleads for support to increase number of wheelchair tennis tournaments

“It is the first junior tournament in South Africa and Africa. With more support, we will increase the number of tournaments to nine."

Tennis South Africa (TSA) wheelchair tennis manager, Patrick Selepe, pleads for support from schools for people living with disabilities, government and businesses to increase the number of ITF-sanctioned tournaments for junior wheelchair tennis players to nine, from next year.

Selepe spoke after the inaugural Ithembelihle ITF Junior Tournament at the Gauteng East Tennis Association (GETA) in Lakefield on October 4, which he said was successful.

The tournament attracted players from around the country and Tanzania.

Tennis South Africa wheelchair tennis manager Patrick Selepe.

The manager hailed Germiston-based Ithembelihle LSEN School and GETA for helping with the tournament, adding that watching the players gave them the energy to want to host more tournaments.

“It is the first junior tournament held in South Africa and Africa. With more support, we will increase the number of tournaments to nine.

“With that, the top 10 in the world in the junior circuit will be from South Africa because we will be the only country worldwide to have this number of tournaments. It will give our players higher rankings,” he said.

Singles and doubles champion Ntando Nokama with Ithembelihle LSEN School principal Leonor Ngozi.

He said their challenge was development and are, therefore, always looking for young players to boost their high-performance pool, which currently has only six top players.

“We only have Kgothatso Montjane, Donald Ramphadi and Alwande Sikhosana among the top players in the world and Africa. I believe we can have more at that level if we can take care of our juniors,” he said.

He said this will allow the players to forge careers internationally, like Montjane, who won this year’s Roland Garros and US Open doubles titles with partner Yui Kamiji from Japan.

Singles runner-up and doubles winner Daniel van Wyk with Ithembelihle LSEN School principal Leonor Ngozi.

“We want to expand to nine tournaments to give back to the juniors. If we get our development right in the next three years, we won’t have to worry about what happens to our high-performance players when they retire. We will have these youngsters in the pipeline,” he said.

Selepe acknowledged the daily challenges faced by people with disabilities. He said sports was empowering them, adding that TSA was determined to give everyone an opportunity.

“The parents of children with disabilities don’t know what the sport can do for their children because of a lack of information. Besides that, most come from poor backgrounds where parents look at putting food on the table rather than thinking about extra-mural activities like sports.”

Musa Zondo with Ithembelihle LSEN School principal Leonor Ngozi.

He urged children living with disabilities in Ekurhuleni to contact TSA if they are interested in wheelchair tennis.

“It becomes easier for us to reach out when we have everyone’s contact details. For instance, one amputee boy we spotted after our camp over the weekend will now play wheelchair tennis at Ithembelihle. We give everyone an opportunity,” he said.

Also Read: Tennis coach pleads for sponsors for TSA tournament

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