Lack of sponsorship won’t stop US-bound KG

An emotional Kgothatso Montjane was welcomed by WDB Trust CEO Nomgqibelo Mdlalose on her return to SA (Facebook).
An emotional Kgothatso Montjane was welcomed by WDB Trust CEO Nomgqibelo Mdlalose on her return to SA (Facebook).

Cape Town - Wheelchair tennis star Kgothatso "KG" Montjane has vowed to continue flying South Africa's flag high and to keep pushing harder to reach greater heights.

The talented player has amassed more than 30 titles despite not having sponsorship.

Montjane made history by reaching the Wimbledon women's wheelchair semi-finals a fortnight ago.

The Limpopo-born star said she had had a long bumpy road, but always found a reason to take one more step forward.

"It hasn’t been an easy journey, looking at how I started the sport," she said.

"Honestly, I'm still surprised at myself and how I made it this far.

"I figured out how to survive through the challenges. For me, that’s what is important - I focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negativity."

Before being given a wildcard entrance to Wimbledon, she also featured at the French Open in May, losing to three-time runner-up Aniek van Koot from the Netherlands in the opening round.

Montjane has come close to reaching the final at Roland Garros before. In 2013, she lost to Dutch former world No 1 Jiske Griffioen in the singles semi-finals.

In 2014, Montjane was very close to reaching this stage again before world No 3 Van Koot fought back to clinch the match in two sets.

Montjane's biggest hindrance is lack of sponsorship, as she travels to some of the biggest world events without her coach, Gerald Stoffberg.

Sports and Recreation Minister Tokozile Xasa had reached out to her, but Montjane was not sure if the minister would be able to help her secure funding.

READ: SA's Wimbledon trio have put tennis back in the spotlight

Despite all this, the player has been consistently winning titles.

Last year, she collected five titles and recently successfully defended her Swiss Open title against world No 7 Lucy Shuker in Geneva, Switzerland.

Montjane sent her Wimbledon doubles partner, Germany's Katharina Krüger, packing after beating her to reach her first semi-final, before being eliminated by defending champion Diede de Groot.

Montjane and Krüger were knocked out of the doubles semi-final round by top seeds De Groot and Japanese national Yui Kamiji by a score of 6-0 and 6-0.

Montjane arrived home from the UK to a hero's welcome on Monday morning at OR Tambo International Airport.

READ: Family, fans greet tearful Montjane after Wimbledon success

She burst into tears when she came through the gates of the international arrivals terminal and was greeted by a group of jovial fans and family.

"Taking up the sport 11 years ago, I never imagined I would get to this level and play among the best in the world. This feels great," she said.

The 32-year-old's congested schedule forced her to retire during one of her matches as fatigue started to affect her health. This week, she attended the launch of an anti-prejudice movement by Castle Lager, called #SmashTheLabel, at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.

It was at this gathering that she revealed that, despite being good in other sports such as wheelchair basketball, she was first chosen to play wheelchair tennis during her days at Helen Franz Special School in Bochum, Limpopo.

"When I got to varsity, it was the only sport for people with a disability, so I decided to continue because I love sport."

Since then, Montjane has been climbing the ladder from the local scene to where she now plays on the same courts as some of the greatest athletes, such as Serena Williams and Roger Federer.

Her Wimbledon stint also improved her International Tennis Federation ranking from number eight to six. Now she has set her sights on the last Grand Slam tournament of the year, the US Open.

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