Kgothatso Montjane. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/PAT SCALA
Kgothatso Montjane. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/PAT SCALA

There was much revelry as the golden boy of local tennis, Kevin Anderson, smashed his way to the Wimbledon final. But did you know about Kgothatso Montjane?

While Kev was busy on centre court, 32-year-old from Limpopo was breaking boundaries as the first black SA woman to play at Wimbledon and the first woman in post-apartheid SA to make it all the way to the singles semifinals. And she managed to do both, alone, and in a wheelchair.

She lost a leg when, as a baby, the poorly developed limb was amputated. She was first introduced to the world of tramlines and racquets in 2005, when her high school provided facilities for wheelchair tennis. By 2011, and inspired by the Williams sisters, she’d decided to turn her passion into a career, and has since played in more than 30 major tournaments.

Compared with the support and money for able-bodied players, there is shockingly little in the world of wheelchair tennis. You get £2.25m for an able-bodied Wimbledon win, as opposed to £40,000 for the wheelchair version — which is still more substantial than in most other wheelchair tournaments.

Montjane has had to pay her way herself. She didn’t have the cash to travel with a coach and made it to the tournament only through funding provided by a private SA financial institution.

She had also never played on grass before, had no practice partners, no-one to help her assemble her chair, and had to ask a British coach to help her practise before matches. Despite all this, she still managed to claim victory after victory — eventually losing to reigning champion Diede de Groot from the Netherlands.

You can be sure we will be hearing a lot more about Montjane. "You need to keep believing in your work no matter how tough it is because someday you will get it right," she told CNN.

"Despite it all, I am still gunning for the number one spot in the world before I retire."

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