Pretoria - The sky is the limit for University of Pretoria student Alwande Sikhosana, who is making great progress on the international wheelchair tennis circuit stage.
So great has his game been, that the 21-year-old from Harding in rural KwaZulu-Natal ended 2021 by breaking into the world top-50 with a career-high ranking of 48. He was previously ranked 76.
The former world Number 2 junior has just returned from a six-week tour in Turkey where he participated with outstanding success after back-to-back wins over two world top-20 players.
He said winning against the world Number 9 and Number 19 was his career highlight so far.
Sikhosana’s breakthrough came in 2017 when he was just 16. He stunned four-time Soweto Open champion, Leon Els, to win his first men’s singles title at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Soweto. Els had a career-high International Tennis Federation singles ranking of 29 at the time.
Sikhosana’s love for tennis started in primary school, at the Harding Special School in 2009. He said he was a very active boy who played several sports, including wheelchair basketball, soccer and wheelchair tennis, but he eventually chose wheelchair tennis because he was more interested in individual sport.
“In five years I see myself as the best wheelchair tennis player in the world, a grand slam champion and a Paralympics medallist,” he said.
The star player regards himself as his own biggest inspiration. “Looking back from where I come from, it was nearly impossible to make it to the world courts, especially as a kid.
“Despite all the obstacles I faced and the limits set on me, I was able to break through the boundaries and inspire other kids from the township, which makes me proud of myself.”
Like most children from poor backgrounds, Sikhosana’s story is one of hard work and dedication, not having enough financial support and being unable to play in tournaments to improving his ranking, which has been one of his main obstacles.
“I have always told myself that as long as I have my wheelchair and racket, I’ll keep working and use every opportunity that comes my way,” he said.
When he is not hitting balls, the tennis star writes music and reads books. He is also a Kaizer Chiefs’ fan.
South Africa has produced a number of successful Paralympian athletes who have gone on to fly the Mzansi flag high in international competitions, such as Natalie du Toit, Oscar Pistorius, Ntando Mahlangu, Zanele Situ, Lucas Sithole and Pieter du Preez.
The university said of him: “When this pro-wheelchair tennis player is in action, he wants to get things done as quick as possible. To him, it boils down to going for a big serve.
“This aggressive approach is paying dividends. As a junior player, he ranked as the second-best in the world, but now a new chapter has started.
“Sikhosana has turned pro. Experienced players should take note. If he has his way, he will be in action during next year's Tokyo Paralympic Games.”
According to Tennis SA: “Mzansi has produced some of the world’s best wheelchair tennis players, Sikhosana is the latest rising star to look out for.”