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Limpopo tennis star Donald Ramphadi rewarded with Australian Open wild card

Ramphadi set to make Grand Slam debut at Melbourne Park

Donald Ramphadi in action during the SA Spring Open singles tournament at Ellis Park in Johannesburg in October 2021.
Donald Ramphadi in action during the SA Spring Open singles tournament at Ellis Park in Johannesburg in October 2021.
Image: Tennis South Africa/Picture Café

Tzaneen star Donald Ramphadi will get the chance to have world tennis sit up and take notice at this month’s Australian Open after he was awarded a wild-card entry at the year’s first Grand Slam event.

SA's leading wheelchair tennis quad player will debut at Melbourne Park later this month and could not hide his excitement ahead of the challenge.

“This wild card means a lot to me. I have been working very hard over the past 10 years of playing tennis and I always had hope that one day I would make it,” said the 28-year-old Ramphadi. “Now that I have been presented with this golden opportunity, it’s amazing and I feel ready to compete at Grand Slam level.”

Despite the curveballs that come with Covid-19, Ramphadi had a stellar 2021 and finished on a high.

He made the semifinals of International Tennis Federation (ITF) level two events in France and Italy, and won the SA Spring Open singles title at Ellis Park to finish the year 18th in the world.

“The past 12 months have been challenging due to Covid-19 as we couldn’t travel much and could only train.”

Ramphadi spearheaded the SA quad team that won bronze at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup in Sardinia, Italy, in October last year. He defeated some big names during the ITF’s flagship wheelchair tennis team event, including six-time Grand Slam champion and former world No 1 David Wagner, and Japanese world No 6 Koji Sugeno.

The top seven ranked quad players at the ranking cut-off, plus Ramphadi, make up the eight players who will vie for the singles and doubles titles at Melbourne Park from January 23 to 27.

“I will be competing with the top seven players in the world, so I know there won’t be easy matches. I feel mentally and physically ready to compete at that level. I have been competing with some of these top players at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup and I managed to beat some of them.

“So, I am ready to play them again.”

Ramphadi will warm up for the Australian Open by playing the Victorian Open ITF 1 Series from January 8 to 12 and Melbourne Open Super Series from January 15 to 19.

Ramphadi will be accompanied by leading women’s player and four-time Grand Slam finalist Kgothatso Montjane in the wheelchair events.