27 March 2014
Many of the best wheelchair tennis players in the world have confirmed their entries for the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) series taking place in Johannesburg and Benoni, east of Johannesburg, in April.
No less than 23 world top 10-ranked players in various categories have entered the series, representing 17 countries. Included among the entrants are two world number one players, Sabine Ellerbrock (Germany) in the women’s singles and David Wagner (USA) in the Quads.
The back-to-back tournaments form part of the prestigious International Tennis Federation (ITF) NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour and other than prize money, the players will be battling on court for all important world ranking points.
The first tournament, the Grade 1 Acsa South Africa Gauteng Open will be played from 23 to 27 April at the Gauteng East Tennis Complex in Benoni Lake, followed by the Acsa SA Open, one of only six Super Series events, to be played from 29 April to 2 May at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg.
Each tournament will host a men’s, women’s, quads and juniors event.
Three Major titles in 2013
World number two Stephane Houdet headlines the men’s singles event and is closing in on world number one Shingo Kuneida of Japan, who Houdet beat in five finals last year. Houdet’s five titles in 2013 included the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. He is also the defending Acsa SA Open champion.
Houdet’s stiffest competition should come from world number 3 Gordon Reid of Great Britain, who lost to Houdet in last year’s Acsa SA Open final. Reid won Paralympic gold in London in 2012.
South Africa’s leading player Evans Maripa is ranked 15th in the world and will the host nation’s best hope in the men’s singles.
In the women’s singles, world number one Sabine Ellerbrock, who won the Australian Open in January, will be strongly challenged by world numbers four and five, Aniek van Koot and Marjolein Buis, both of the Netherlands.
Van Koot was last year’s world number one and won the US Open, defeating Ellerbrock in the final. Buis, meanwhile, is the defending Acsa SA Open champion.
Local hopes for the women’s title will rest on Kgothatso “KG” Montjane, who is ranked seventh in the world. Montjane is the defending champion in the Acsa Gauteng Open.
In the quads’ competition, South African star Lucas Sithole, ranked second in the world, will be the biggest competition to the world’s top player David Wagner. Wagner, who won the Australian Open earlier this year over Sithole, lost to the South African in the final of last year’s US Open.
Andrew Lapthorne, ranked third in the world, will be a player both Wagner and Sithole will have to watch carefully. The British star beat Sithole in the Ellis Park final last year.
The junior event will be dominated by South African players, who feature strongly in the world rankings. The entry is headed by world number four Thato Tsomole, with fellow South Africans Sean-Liam de Hilster and Thando Hlatswayo set to be his strongest opposition.
As a bonus, both tournaments will be hosting a mixed event, which is new to world wheelchair tennis. The aim of hosting the mixed event is to assist the International Tennis Federation in preparation for the first ever mixed wheelchair tennis event being played at the next Paralympics in Brazil.