She’s made history at Wimbledon, now South Africa wheelchair tennis star has her eyes on the top spot
Kgothatso Montjane has achieved many of her childhood dreams.
The South African wheelchair tennis star has played in over 30 major tournaments. She successfully defended her Swiss Open title in July and has now made history as the first black woman from South Africa to compete at Wimbledon.
Montjane, 32, won over the Wimbledon crowd with her impressive performances at the tournament.
“I was nervous at first but I am proud that I got settled because playing at the Wimbledon was a long-awaited moment for me. It is a dream come true and the most satisfying moment was winning my first match on my first grass match experience,” she said.
Though her inspiring run at the competition ended in a semi-final defeat to defending world champion Diede De Groot, many have praised Montjane’s courage and determination throughout the tournament.
Her outing at the grand slam event has seen her rise to number six in the ITF World Wheelchair Tennis rankings.
But her Wimbledon debut did not come easy. She traveled alone and had no coach with her at the tournament.
Fresh from a self-funded appearance at Roland Garros in June, Montjane said she had little money left to travel with a trainer.
“It was because of lack of funding,” she said. “I had to send a proposal to a private South African finance institution even for me to even attend the tournament. They were the ones that helped me out.”
These challenges are far from the biggest that Montjane has overcome in her life.
She was born with a poorly developed leg, which had to be amputated, and was raised in Limpopo, South Africa, where she says few people understood her disability.
“I had to deal with people staring and feeling sorry for me”
But her insecurities disappeared after her parents took to her to a special needs school. There, her eyes were opened to a new world of possibilities.
“Seeing other kids with different disabilities helped me realize that I was not the only one who was differently able and that’s how I developed acceptance and confidence”
Montjane said she began playing tennis at the age of 19 after a company provided facilities for wheelchair tennis at her high school. She continued to play at university, driven by her love for the sport.
She said the success of the Williams sisters has inspired her to play tennis professionally.
“They started as young black kids and their courage and bravery reminds me of my intrinsic motivation to always get myself through a lot of situations,” she said.
Montjane wants to mentor budding tennis athletes, and hopes her struggle and triumph in life will spark their interest in the sport.
“You need to keep believing in your work no matter how tough it is or gets because someday you get it right,” she said. “Despite it all, I am still gunning for the number one spot in the world before I retire.”