This Grand Slam tennis champ first picked up a racket at 21


Lucas Sithole is Grand-Slam-good at tennis. The left-handed South African is a former US Open singles and Australian Open doubles champion, as well as a former finalist in the singles division of the latter, making him the only African to have etched his name on tennis’ most coveted silverware. His success on the court has been nothing short of remarkable, considering that he only picked up the sport at the age of 21. And that he has been in a wheelchair since he was 12.

Now 30, the train accident that cost him both legs and most of his right arm is a distant memory. The legacy that he has created since overshadows it, magnificently. It took Sithole three years to master tennis, an incredible feat considering that the sport is centred on balance and control. And after playing his first tournament in Holland twelve years ago, he was sure that his future lay between chalk-drawn lines.

Alongside his Grand Slam moments, Sithole has experienced the honours of representing his country at the Paralympics and being featured alongside South Africa’s greatest heroes in 21 Icons. Having achieved a career-high ranking of second in 2013, the year in which he defeated the then top-seeded player multiple times, Sithole is a fiercely respected member of the men’s tour. And, given Roger Federer’s late career resurgence at 35, he might just fancy another go at reaching the very top of his sport.