Wheelchair tennis star Kgothatso Montjane to use Wimbledon as a Paralympics warm-up

After reaching the semifinals of all four grand slam tournaments, it is only natural that South African wheelchair tennis star Kgothatso Montjane should fancy her chances of a Paralympic medal in Tokyo.

Previously, Wimbledon [she was the first Black South African woman to feature there, in 2018] was Montjane's annual highlight, but this year the world no. 7 is treating even that as a de facto warm-up for the main event in Japan.

In the wake of her recent French Open semifinal exit, Montjane told ESPN: "I'm using each and every tournament that I play before the Paralympics to just prepare for the Games.

"Wimbledon used to be the one that I really looked [forward] to, but at the moment, I'm just going to use it as one of those tournaments that gets me back in the game.

"The biggest thing is to aim for the podium [at the Paralympics]. For me to do that, I need to have a lot of matches behind me before the games."

Montjane will be on her preferred hard court surface at Tokyo's Ariake Tennis Park in late August, and a lack of a suitable South African doubles partner will give her additional time to focus on her singles craft.

After successive second round singles exits in London and Rio -- the first due to injury and the second, according to Montjane, due to a poorly-timed change of wheelchair -- she is doing all in her power to ensure the stars align this time.

"I don't think I was good enough [in London and Rio], but when I went to London, I picked up an injury just before [The Olympics] and I picked up an injury in London too," Montjane recalled.

"When I went to Rio, I was switching wheelchairs in between games. That was not a smart decision. I was ready to compete, but making the decision to get a new wheelchair was a blunder from my side.

"I'm hoping that I can get into this one with no injuries and I'm not trying to make any changes at the last minute."

Montjane knows all too well how scarce opportunities in the game are for African players. Had it not been for Optimize Agency throwing their support behind her, it is doubtful that Montjane would have secured the funding required to consistently compete at the top level.

With an impressive performance at the Paralympics, she sees an opportunity to play her part in paving the way for a more comfortable future for her compatriots.

"I think [an impressive showing at the Paralympics] will give people hope, and tennis will get attention in the country and the continent as a whole," she said.

"We all know that on the continent, tennis is not really a big sport. If one of us on this circuit is able to do well in the Games, it will give us that hope that we will see things starting to change and people starting to be more involved in the sport [regardless of] their backgrounds.

"Also, maybe [we will see] the sport being supported enough. I think tennis is just not a popular sport in South Africa or in Africa. That's why it's not being supported that much.

"I think if I do well, that will actually bring about change, because we have quite a lot of tennis players -- wheelchair and able-bodied -- who really want to make it in the world, but without the right resources, they are not able to pursue their dreams.

"If I do well, I think it will help quite a lot."