Changawa, Kotecha storm Karen Open final - Daily Nation

Changawa, Kotecha storm Karen Open final

Saturday December 15 2018

Ismael Changawa plays a backhand shot to Sheil Kotecha during their Karen Open Tennis Championships men's semi final at the Karen Country Club, Nairobi on December 15, 2018. Changawa won 6-3, 6-0. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO |

Ismael Changawa plays a backhand shot to Sheil Kotecha during their Karen Open Tennis Championships men's semi final at the Karen Country Club, Nairobi on December 15, 2018. Changawa won 6-3, 6-0. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By AYUMBA AYODI
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Defending champion Kenya's Ismael Changawa will face off with Guy Iradukunda from Burundi in this year's Karen Open Tennis Championships men's final on Sunday.

In the women's final, Kenya's Sneha Kotecha seeks her maiden Karen Open title against Narindra Ranaivo from Madagascar.

Changawa edged out compatriot Sheil Kotecha Korea in straight sets of 6-3, 6-0 having trailed 3-2 in the first set.

Iradukunda piped Kenya's Albert Njogu also in straight sets of 6-4, 6-0 to set up Kenya's top seed Changawa.

Top seed Sneha stamped her authority, beating Narindra's twin sister Mialy 6-3, 6-4 while Narindra withstood a second set scare to eliminate Nancy Onya from the Democratic Republic of Congo 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 in the semi-finals.

Changawa and Iradukunda will be meeting for the first time in almost two years. The women's final starts at 10am followed by men's at 11am.

Changawa upset top seed Duncan Mugabe 6-0, 6-1 to lift last year's title.

"I've met Iradukunda several times here in Kenya and the United States and the matches went either way. Perhaps this final will settle the scores and decide who is king," said the 21-year-old Changawa, who reckons that his opponent has a dominant backhand and equally good serve.

"He doesn't like moving a lot hence that is where my focus will be."

Iradukunda pointed out that they have both improved their game and he could not predict what to expect. "Two years is a long duration hence I need to settle pretty fast in the match and figure out what to do. I will definitely give my best," said Iradukunda, 22.

Changawa found himself trailing 3-2 before getting his rhythm to break Sheil's serve a couple of times to win the first set.

The second set was lopsided as Changawa barely gave Sheil breathing space.

"We know each other well. I knew he had good hands hence I had to stay focused to regain the lead in the first set," said Changawa. "I slowed his pace and injected some good volleys to bring him out of his comfort zone."

Sheil rued making unforced errors to hand Changawa the win. "I was playing pretty well but completely lost focus after he gained the lead," said Sheil.

Sheil said it had been a good season having gained his first International Tennis Professional ranking at number 1576 besides taking part in the Junior Wimbledon where he lost in the qualification round.

Njogu, who trailed throughout almost had Iradukunda to the sword thrice at 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 but let it go to the good-serving Burundian.

"Iradukunda is good in attacking volleys and remained consistent," said Njogu, who added that he had achieved his targets this season.

"It was my goal to reach the semis at Kenya Open and Karen Open and I am glad I attained that," said Njogu, who also reached the ITF East Africa Tennis 18 and Under Tennis Championships final once.

He also reached semis, quarter-finals and third round of the similar events once each.

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