Epic battles mark Kenya Open quarters
Epic battles mark Kenya Open quarters
‘EPIC’ couldn’t begin to describe the action at Nairobi Club on Wednesday as the Britam Kenya Open's Mens and Womens quarterfinals rolled into action at Nairobi Club. The simmering pot finally came to a boil on Court 7 with an exhausting 2hrs 54minute marathon match that pitted the third seed David Oringa from Uganda against Sheil Kotecha.
“Going into the match I had nothing to lose, he’s much more experienced than I am,” said a dejected Kotecha after the match.
Experience apparently didn’t matter to the young charge as he dropped the first game of the match before racing through the next 6 with a solid display of shot making with everything he touched turning to the proverbial gold. Everybody on the stands expecting to see an upset on the cards, from Kotecha’s mother under an umbrella in the scorching sun to Tennis Kenya’s chairman James Kenani who thought, “he’s going to beat him.” Apparently David Oringa thought the same at this point and was only hanging on through sheer fighting spirit. He too thought he would lose based on the searing pain shooting from his arm.
The second set saw Kotecha nudge ahead 2-1 before Oringa signaled for medical attention to a strain in his tricep. “It’s been paining all week!” Oringa said of his now taped upper arm. After receiving medical attention and going back on court, Kotecha got his previous game’s break back to lead by 3-1. From there, Oringa significantly slowed the match down, turning down the pace on his serve and groundstrokes maybe from the injury, maybe a tactical change. This saw him level at 3-3, 4-4 and finally 5-5 before Oringa sped ahead to take the set by 7-5.
Kotecha is from touring Southern Africa on the ITF Juniors circuit where he got mixed performances before playing at the Britam Kenya Open where his performance running into the quarterfinal and almost beating the number three seed has surprised many.
The final set also saw a see-saw battle between the two before Oringa finally edging the match 1-6 7-5 6-4 in little under three hours, promising to fight to the bitter end in every match.
In the other Mens quarters, first seed Ismael Changawa Mzai was unperturbed by the Ugandan Simon Ayella who he beat in exactly 45 minutes without losing a single game. Fazal Mohamed Khan had a major scare earlier on in the morning against an ever fighting Petty Andanda who gave everything he had and some more but came up short losing to Khan in straight sets of 6-3 6-4. No. 2 Edgar Kazembe had less than an impressive performance but managed to come through an error prone match to put away Ibrahim Yego 6-3 6-4.
There seems to be a change of guard on the Womens side with last year’s runner up Caroline Oduor succumbing in three sets to Nikita Dawda, who same as Sheil Kotecha went into the match with nothing to lose given her opponent’s experience. “I lost in the Kenya Open to her four years ago in the quarterfinal when I was very young,” says Nikita who is playing competitively in Kenya since a horrifying knee injury two years ago while at the peak of her tennis and unfortunately her last junior year.
Dawda seemed to have too much respect for her opponent seeing Oduor race to a 6-1 first set win with the young University of Nottingham student winning the third game of the set as a consolation. Sitting down for the first set Dawda decided to cut out the “reckless” play out of her game and in her own words “make it tougher for her than for myself” which seemed to pay off. She won the second set 6-3 before inflicting the coup de grace in the final set by the same margin as the first set. Reminiscent of the first Dawda – Oduor clash and the changing of guard theme, Evelyn Otula a multiple champion here came up against a highly charged Sada Nahimana of Burundi and could only manage to win three games losing 6-2 6-1. Another youngster, Stephanie Mbaya is also through to the semifinals to face Nikita Dawda in a highly promising match up, the other being Sada Nahimana against top seed Shufaa Changawa.