Kgothatso Montjane sets sights on Wimbledon after Roland Garros triumph

Kgothatso Montjane became the first South African woman to win a French Open title since 1981, when she claimed the wheelchair doubles title with partner Yui Kamiji in June 2023. Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images

Roland Garros women's wheelchair doubles champion Kgothatso Montjane has set her sights on a Wimbledon triumph with Yui Kamiji, to finally claim the title the South African Paralympian has most desired in her career.

Montjane feels that she has unfinished business at Wimbledon, particularly because she was the first Black South African woman to compete there, in 2018, and because she reached both the singles and doubles finals in 2021.

Despite becoming the first South African woman to win a French Open title since Tanya Harford and Ros Fairbank in 1981, Montjane will not feel satisfied until she conquers SW19.

Montjane told ESPN: "I still feel the same way about Wimbledon [as before] - I feel like it's special, especially because it's on grass. I feel like that's an unpopular surface, especially for us in wheelchair tennis. It's maybe the only tournament we only get to play [on grass].

"It's tradition - it makes it special, maybe because I first made history at Wimbledon and I was well-received. I just feel comfortable playing in London in that particular tournament and I feel wheelchair tennis is being supported so well in Wimbledon. I still feel like Wimbledon is the [most important] slam, yeah."

Montjane has long since felt a strong connection with Kamiji, who replaced Brit Lucy Shuker as her regular doubles partner - a decision which was vindicated at Roland Garros, but the 37-year-old South African knows grass will be a different challenge.

She added: "We locked up the other two slams together, so it will be exciting times - exciting challenges... It's different surfaces. I think what me and Yui always try to do is figure it out - how can we win?

"We never go into the match with strategy - we go into the match looking for opportunities. We're not the type of partnership that sits there the day before and says: 'This is how we think we should play.' We go on court and when we see spaces, we start talking about it.

"It will be quite interesting to see how we can play on grass to be honest. On hard, fair enough, we pretty much know how we can move, but on grass, I don't know how that's going to happen, so it's going to be quite interesting for us.

"I think it will be a great combination. I think Yui still moves better, so she can allow me to come to the net and volley a lot, so that's what I think we'll come up to on grass, but we'll see when we get there."

Aside from the obvious motivation of winning another Grand Slam title, Montjane hopes her performances inspire wheelchair tennis players, particularly Black women, back home.

The trailblazer said: "That's really my wish - I would love things to really change to be honest, because I think it's always a sweet and sour moment for me when I do well and I get to find out I'm the first one to do this and that and I'm like, 'Wow. What happened to people before me?

"I can only hope that all this is going to inspire change. I want to see change. I don't know how long I still have, so by the time I decide to hang up the racquet, I would love to see a potential player come up to really sport going, because it's really heartbreaking to see that you're the only woman in the entire tournament.

"It's also heartbreaking seeing that you're the only woman from your country in the entire tournament. It's quite heartbreaking seeing some fans come in with some flags or cheering for their countrypeople. It's really sad to get there the week before the slam and [realise] we don't have that in South Africa.

"I can only hope that all this inspires change. I don't want people to just celebrate me - I just want them to congratulate me. I want to see a difference. For me, that's why I hang onto this sport with all its challenges. I'm doing all this with the bare minimum.

"All I had here was just my agency who went out and got a couple of sponsors. I still don't have everything that a tennis player needs. It would break my heart if there's no change coming up."

There was at least something else to cheer about for South Africans at Roland Garros, however, as Donald Ramphadi and doubles partner Andy Lapthorne beat Heath Davidson and Robert Shaw to win the Quad Wheelchair Doubles title.