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18th of November 2018


Defending champions out of Kenya Open

By BRIAN YONGAMore by this Author

The defending champions for the men’s and women’s singles events will be absent at this year’s Britam Kenya Open Tennis Championship that serves off Saturday at the Nairobi Club.

Ugandan Duncan Mugbae (men) and Natali Coronel (women) of Argentina, who clinched the respective titles at last year’s finals, have not entered for this year’s showpiece having committed to other events earlier in the year, organizers revealed on Thursday.

By Thursday’s deadline for entries, a record 73 men and 35 women had registered for Tennis Kenya’s biggest calendar event.

This year’s championship has attracted players from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Rwanda, Uganda, Japan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Burundi, Germany, Sudan, Ghana, Zambia as well as hosts Kenya.

In the absence of the defending champions, siblings Ishmael and Shufaa Changawa of Kenya will be favourites to reclaim their men and women’s crowns having relinquished them last year.

The Open will have the following categories: Ladies and Men’s Singles, Ladies and Men’s Doubles, Mixed Doubles, Veteran Category (Players over 40 years of age), Handicap Category, Wheelchair Competition – Singles and Doubles.

According Tennis Kenya Executive Officer Suzan Adhiambo, the draws will be conducted Friday at the Nairobi Club.

“The number of entries has surpassed the draw which is 48 for men and 32 for women. Therefore, the qualifiers will have to be played on Saturday and Sunday to determine the players who will go into the main draw,” Adhiambo said on Thursday.

The event got a shot in the arm last week from Britam, who unveiled Sh3 million sponsorship.

The men’s singles winner will go home with Sh90,000, with the top woman in the singles category going home with Sh80,000.

For Ishmael, it will be a chance to make up for last year’s disappointment, which saw him bow out of the competition at the semi-final stage.

“Our Davis Cup and regional games exploits this year explain my current form. I was born ready,” said Ishmael, who won back-to-back Kenya Open titles in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

In the absence of Mugabe, as well compatriot Sheil Kotecha, who eliminated Ishamel in the last four last year, the Kenyan number one’s main opposition will come from former winner Edgar Kazembe of Zambia.

On her part, Ishmael’s elder sister Shufaa, 24, who won the women’s championships in in 2011, 2014 and 2016, has recovered from a right shoulder injury and is ready to battle.

Shufaa also lost out in the semis last year to eventual winner Natali.

It could also be smooth sailing for her in the absence Natali as well as last year’s losing finalist Celestine Ella Avomo of Gabon and Burundi’s Aisha Niyonkuru.

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