University of Pretoria (UP) wheelchair tennis player Mariska Venter is twice as good an athlete as she was in January this year – and the international rankings prove it. At the beginning of 2019, Venter was ranked the 59th best player in the world; she is now ranked 31.
But her main challenge still awaits: Venter is working towards qualifying for the 2020 Summer Paralympic Games in Tokyo, and to do so, she has to be in the top 23 in the world by June next year. It may seem daunting, but improving her ranking by eight positions is precisely the sort of challenge that the tennis whizz loves.
Mariska Venter has played some of the best tennis of her career this year.
“Whenever I am told I can’t do something, it gets me to work twice as hard,” she says in a video on her website. “I owe it to myself to do so. Tennis has given me a new lease on life, and I am planning to make the most of it. Once I have set myself a goal, I will never back down. It is all about stepping up.”
Venter’s life changed dramatically in 2004 when she and her family were involved in a head-on collision. Tragically, her father and oldest brother died, while she was left paralysed from the waist down. She was eight at the time.
The UP athlete played some of the best tennis of her career this year, winning 42 games and losing 21. More importantly, she won four titles in the singles and was runner-up on three occasions. She was equally impressive in the doubles, having won four titles.
The Tuks player attributes the turnaround in her performance to the hard work and sacrifices she and her coaching team had made.
“It led to me playing with greater confidence,” Venter says. “During the crunch moments, when it all boiled down to mental toughness, I was able to keep my cool. I actually relished duelling it out on the court. I beat players I have never been able to get the better off.”
With this attitude, we’re sure to see her on the world stage in Japan next year.