Ramphadi has his eye on Paris


When you hit a few balls with Donald Ramphadi on the tennis court, you quickly realize that this 30-year-old wheelchair tennis star has heaps of talent.

This South African tennis player soon leaves for Turkey where he will participate in the world championship. In addition, the Paralympic Games are also around the corner

Previously, he has played on courts in Madrid and Barcelona as well as at Roland-Garros and Wimbledon.

Ramphadi’s life changed in the blink of an eye when he ended up in a wheelchair as a 12-year-old.

A disease that affected his muscles was only noticed at the age of 12.

Ramphadi is not dependent on a wheelchair, but moves more easily and without pain with a wheelchair.

He grew up in a one-bedroom house in Maropeng, a small settlement near Tzaneen. He is one of three children who had to support his mother. His father was not in the picture at all and his mother died in 2011.

This past week he spoke to RNews about his success on the tennis court.

His eyes fill with tears every now and then when he talks about his childhood and the man he is today.

“You can imagine for yourself that it was not easy not being able to do anything for yourself – you are completely dependent on your mother,” he says. “But I see the smile on her face,” adding that he knows his mother “is watching him from above”.

It wasn’t until five years after his illness that Ramphadi regained his strength to take care of himself.

“My life has changed irrevocably. The life I knew suddenly changed. I was on my way to school to write a test. I didn’t know that my life would be turned aside.”

He has always been a sporty boy who dreamed of playing for Orlando Pirates on the football field.

He was first exposed to wheelchair tennis at the Letaba school for children with special needs.

“We were a handful of children and the teachers advised me to stand only a few balls. Wow, I immediately fell in love with the sport.

“I realized that this is what my future holds. The sport taught me a lot about myself.”

He is the no. 1 player in Africa and South Africa and is ranked fifth in the world.

The nature of the medal on the Paralympic stage is not something Ramphadi is too concerned about – he is relieved to be in action in Paris.

He dedicates every game to his son. “I don’t want my son to suffer like we did. I want to be a father to my son. I don’t like to think about the hurt – my story is one to share.”

Ramphadi would like to give back to the community where he grew up to teach the children more about wheelchair tennis.

“Not all of us have the same gifts. I am in a privileged position to be financially strong and to show my appreciation to the teachers, I want to establish a charity.”

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Ramphadi still wants to compete as a competitive player for the next 15 years.

Ramphadi is the first South African man to win a Grand Slam doubles title since Wesley Moodie in 2005. The South Africans David Adams and Piet Norval were also able to do it in 2000 and 1999 respectively.

Siyabulela Nkachela, an agent and coach of Tennis South Africa, is Ramphadi’s mentor. He is like a father to him – something he never knew.

“Siya and I sat down together and worked out the plans for the future. I know what I’m capable of.”

Nkachela says patience, dedication and appreciation for what you have are qualities he learned from Ramphadi.

He refers to him as #DonatheWarrior.

“Sometimes it takes believing in someone.

“Donald pushes me to deliver the best I can – whatever I put my mind to, because of his can-do attitude in good times and bad.

“I only have to look at where we were when we started this journey in August 2021 and where we are now. Anything is possible if you believe.”