Many players get inspired to take up a sport by watching the legends on their television screens, like Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. For some others, like South African teenager Khololwam Montsi, the inspiration comes from their family surroundings.
Khololwam Montsi is a rising 17-year-old from South Africa, who is currently ranked No. 13 in the ITF junior rankings. He has won 12 ITF junior titles and has been making many people sit up and take notice of his potential for a while now.
Montsi took up the sport because he wanted to be like his brother Sipho, who is two years older than him. In an interview with the Tennis365 website, Montsi said:
"My brother played pretty much every sport from soccer to rugby and cricket at school. As the younger brother, I looked up to my older brother and I wanted to copy him, did the same sports and everything. I think the only thing I did differently was squash and karate. Once my brother played tennis all of a sudden I was like ‘oh well I want to play tennis’."
Montsi also talked about the age when he picked up tennis, and what made him quit his first passion - karate.
"He started travelling with the South African side. He travelled a lot and I told myself ‘well I want to travel’ so I pretty much dropped karate. I wanted to be like him and picked up the sport at seven. I hear many people say I watch Rafael Nadal and watched [Roger] Federer, but I am often the only person that started playing the sport not because of an actual tennis player," Montsi added.
Khololwam Montsi says he tries to combine the strengths of all the top players, including Rafael Nadal
While he may have been inspired by his brother, who also reached the Top 100 in the ITF junior ranks, Montsi now looks at the top players - including 19-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal - and tries to combine their strengths to create his own best version of the game.
"My idol is Rafael Nadal, but my favorite player is Nick Kyrgios. I like to look at a lot of the top guys and try and combine all of their strengths. Look at [Novak] Djokovic's backhands for example, (Roger) Federer’s forehands. I wouldn’t imitate the same style, but just take note of the way they do it and then I try to take Rafael Nadal’s fighting spirit, [Gael] Monfils’ flair or Kyrgios’ flair and I try to combine everything,” Montsi said.
Montsi is an exciting talent to watch. By his own admission, he loves being an entertainer on the court, just like some of his favourite players Gael Monfils and Nick Kyrgios.
“I can bring my own energy, but I love that feeling of the crowd. I watch a lot of Monfils, Kyrgios, the entertaining players so I think that’s where it started to come from. I love to pump myself up, play with the crowd and just give it my all. I also love to entertain people on the side," he said.
Khololwam Montsi will be competing at the junior boys' event at Roland Garros, where he will get a chance to rub shoulders with some of those players, including Rafael Nadal, who will be aiming for a record 13th title at the French Open in Paris.Published 02 Oct 2020, 16:19 IST