28 January 2014
South African wheelchair tennis star Lucas Sithole claimed runners-up finishes in both the quad singles and doubles at the Australian Open, becoming the first African to reach the final of both events at the first Grand Slam of the year.
Sithole faced world number one David Wagner in the final for the singles title, with both men sporting two wins out of three in the round robin part of the competition ahead of the title decider.
The South African started strongly and convincingly claimed the first set 6-3. Wagner, though, responded immediately by running out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, but Sithole broke back to level matters at 3-3.
Wagner again pulled ahead at 5-3, but once more Sithole levelled at 5-5 before Wagner claimed the next two games to take the set 7-5.
In the deciding third set, Wagner broke Sithole early and went on to win it 6-3 to finish a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 winner. It was his third Australian Open title.
Wagner also teamed with Andrew Lapthorne to defeat Sithole and Dylan Alcott in the final of the quad doubles, winning 6-4, 6-4.
‘Another milestone achieved’
Sithole’s coach Holger Losch, who was named Coach of the Year at the South African Sports Awards for his work with wheelchair tennis players, said in a statement on Monday: “We are proud of Lucas for reaching his second Grand Slam final. It is another milestone achieved and the experience he gained is extremely valuable.
“Lucas had a very successful Australian tour, winning both the Apia Sydney International Open and the Melbourne Open earlier in January this year.
“We are excited to see what the year holds for our top South African aces Lucas Sithole, Kgothatso Montjane and Evans Maripa.
“I would also like to thank our game sponsor Airports Company South Africa, who without their support, these achievements would not have been possible.”
‘An inspiring performance’
Spokesperson for Airports Company South Africa, Unathi Batyashe-Fillis, the game sponsor of Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA), said: “Airports Company South Africa congratulates Lucas on an inspiring performance.
“The company is especially proud to see how its partnership with WTSA has developed and grown talent over the nine-year period since it started sponsoring the sport.
“WTSA is developing world-class players and has put South Africa on the global map of wheelchair sporting talent.”