”It was great to be in the London Paralympics because I worked so hard to make sure that I qualified with merit.”
Despite losing her Australian Open singles quarter-final match against Aniek van Koot (6-1, 7-5) last week, Kgothatso Montjane left the court having made history.
She became the first African wheelchair tennis player to ever take part in a Grand Slam event.
“It’s not an impressive start for the year but it’s good to get tougher matches at the beginning because it will give me an idea on where to improve in my game,” Montjane said.
“The two loses I had weren’t just against any player, but to those who are at the top, so for me it’s good that I’m at another level of the game and there is a lot to learn and to improve at this level.”
Currently No. 10 in the women’s singles world rankings, Montjane was born with a congenital birth defect. Her first introduction to wheelchair tennis was in 2005 by the South African Wheelchair Tennis Association, when her school was invited to come to their camp.
“For me it seemed impossible to with a racket and hit the ball and even move but I never doubted to take a try,” she said.
“When I tried it just happened that I played.”
Voted the 2010 South African Sports Woman Of The Year With A Disability, Kgothatso admits winning her first title at the Hilton Head Tournament was the moment she will always remember and cherish.
She has 29 singles titles to her name and has beaten four of the world’s top 10 players. The South African had the opportunity to compete in her second Paralympic Games in 2012, where she got to the round of 16 in and was beaten by eventual bronze medallist Jiske Griffioen of the Netherlands.
“It was great to be in the London Paralympics because I worked so hard to make sure that I qualified with merit,” she said.
“I didn’t want to get in with a wild card and my impression was to do the best I can, apart from injuries and all that. It was great experience to be there, and I knew it was going to be tough because at the Paralympic Games the best in the world compete against each other.”
Montjane was included on the IPC’s shortlist for its October Athlete of the Month after qualifying for the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters last year.
She played in the main draw against van Koot and Griffioen, who were later finalists in the event.
Montjane has provided motivation for her South African teammates and hopes that one day in the future she will be able to reach a Grand Slam final.
“Looking at how I have improved within two years of playing in the circuit, if I keep playing at this level I see no reason not to get there,” she said.
“I believe everything is possible, you just need to have a good direction of what you want to do with life.”