Liesl Ah Shene
ABOUT 110 leading wheelchair tennis competitors hit the courts at the end of September for the Airports Company South Africa Eastern Cape Open at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth.
The event, classed as an International Tennis Federation future-level tournament, comprised singles and doubles games in four sections – men’s open, women’s open, quad’s open and juniors.
The championship, which ran from September 23 to 26, is the fifth of six annual international wheelchair tournaments in South Africa, organised by Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA).
WTSA spokesman Siyabulela Nkachela said the championship was more about points than the R20000 prize money.
“The championship allows competitors to gain points, which determines their international rankings and qualification into the World Team Cup. This is equivalent to the Davis Cup in wheelchair tennis.”
Nelson Mandela Bay resident Marshall Marsh, 20, took to wheelchair tennis five years ago after being introduced to the game by a teacher from his school. The former Northern Lights pupil travelled to Johannesburg to attend a camp where the game was further explained. He was later given a “tennis chair” which is a specially modified lighter chair that has wheels with a 45% incline and a wheel at the back so that the chair does not tip over.
Marsh is in his final year of studying human movement science at NMMU. After his studies he would like to compete in tennis professionally for a year and improve his ranking before opening a fitness centre and coach wheelchair tennis.
Even though he was also a provincial champion in powerlifting, javelin, swimming as well as being a wheelchair basketball player, he is focusing on tennis.
“I love how competitive it is, it makes me strive to be the best. I especially love how the sport allows me to travel the world and meet new people all the time.”
Marsh’s most memorable tournament was when he went to Korea last year for the World Cup and came home with a silver.
This month, Marsh will travel to Russia for two tournaments including the Moscow Open.
“Tennis allows me to do what I love and I don’t have to pay, I just have to play,” he laughed.
Marsh has been in a wheelchair all his life, as his legs were severely burnt by a fire when he was two-months old and had to be amputated.
His advice for other children and adults who may be in wheelchairs and want to be active in sports: “Work hard and do what you love. You have to have a passion for the sport. If you fail, learn from your mistakes and persevere. You only fail when you give up.”
The sixth and final international competition for the South African calendar is scheduled for December in Cape Town.
Airports Company South Africa Eastern Cape open
Thursday September 26
MEN’S A Final
Els Leon (1), RSA, def. Selepe Patrick (3), RSA , 6-3 6-4
MEN’S B Final
Hubbard Adrian, RSA , def. Shepherd Banda, ZIM , 6-2 6-1
Rose Van Der Meer (2), RSA, def. Mariska Venter (1), RSA, 6-4 6-4 6-1
Bongani Dhlamini (1), RSA, def. Mathebula David (2), RSA, 6-2 6-0
Bongani Dhlamini (1), RSA, def. Alex Mkandla, , 6-3 7-5
BOYS JNR Semifinal
Temba Novatis, TAN , def. Brian Mafuvise, ZIM, 6-2 6-1
Tsomole Thato (1), SA, def. Temba Novatis, , 6-1 6-0
GIRLS JNR Semifinal
Mariska Venter (1), RSA, def. Mathaba Morapedi (4), RSA, 6-0 6-0
Thando Hlatswayo (2), RSA, def. Lethabo Shai, RSA, 6-2 6-0
Mariska Venter (1), RSA, def. Thando Hlatswayo (2), RSA, 6-1 6-3
MEN’S A CONS Final
Tsomole Thato, RSA, def. Nyendeni Xolelani (2), RSA, 6-0 6-0
MEN’S B CONS Final
Nhlanla Dlomo (2), RSA , def. Thobejane Sello (1), RSA, 3-6 6-1 7-5