The South African quad wheelchair tennis team made BNP Paribas World Team Cup history on the fourth day of the competition after becoming the first African team to reach one of the four championship finals at the ITF’s flagship wheelchair tennis team event in Portugal.
After successive bronze medals in 2019 and 2021, South Africa can look forward to an upgrade this year. But to lift the World Team Cup trophy in Saturday’s final and take home the gold medals, Donald Ramphadi, Lucas Sithole and Danny Mohlamonyane will need to find a formula to turn round the result of their round-robin group contest against top seeds Netherlands.
South Africa started this year’s event as seventh seeds, due to former world number 2 Lucas Sithole currently not having a ranking. However, with the 2013 US Open champion returning to international competition this week for the first time since September 2019, his experience of playing at the highest level paid off, even if he is yet to regain peak performance, as he launched South Africa’s 2-1 win over a Brazilian team also looking to reach a first World Team Cup final.
Sithole held off Leandro Pena 6-2 2-6 6-2 in his first career match against the Brazilian, but world No. 7 Ramphadi was in no mood to entertain any thoughts of a third set against world number 8 Ymanitu Silva, racing through the second singles match 6-0 6-1.
“I’m very excited for us to be going to the finals for the first time,” said 28-year-old Ramphadi. “I’m very happy with how my teammate Lucas played, because he really made the job easier for me, but then also for my own performance. And to be the first team from Africa to make it to the World Team Cup finals and for me to be a part of that, I’m really happy.”