Kenyan duo of Ismael Changawa and Kevin Cheruiyot beat Madagascan opposition in contrasting fashion as the Davis Cup Group III tournament got underway at Nairobi Club yesterday.
Cheruiyot, who took to the clay courts for Kenya’s first rubber, overpowered Lucas Andriamasilalao in straight sets of 6-4, 6-3 while Changawa laboured to beat Jean-Jacques Rakotohasy 6-1, 2-6, 7-6 (2).
“Cheruiyot played so well and I was impressed with him. It was a tough match just as we had anticipated and he rose up to the occasion. I had told him to utilise home advantage and that is exactly what he did,” Kenya coach Rosemary Owino said.
The trainer said they are taking each match at a time and they are not thinking of Saturday’s play offs just yet.
“The boys have worked very hard for the last three months and that is showing in the court.The work started a long time ago and the support we are receiving shows that people believe in us,” she said.
Changawa relied on a tie-breaker to edge out a resilient Rakotohasy who had given him a scare by leveling terms in the second set. The three-time Kenya Open winner started the duel strongly as he raced to an early 3-0 lead in the opening set before the 25-year-old Malagasy got off the mark to claim one game. Changawa’s powerful back hand receptions would see him bag three more games to win the set.
Things would however change in the second set as the Indian Ocean Islander brought his A-game to send the match to the third set where the lead changed hands severally before the Kenyan reigned supreme.
In other matches yesterday, Namibia’s Schalk Van Shalkwyk lost to Nigerian Emmanuel Idoko in straight sets of 6-4,6-2 while Youcef Rihana of Algeria stunned Benin’s Delmas N’tcha 6-4,7-5. Aziz Oukaa of Tunisia was too good for Bruno Nhavene as he floored the Mozambican in split sets of 6-1,3-6,6-2.
Kenya, who are chasing a top-two finish in the eight-team tournament, will be out to extend their winning run when they face Algeria in their second pool B match today.
The top two sides in each pool will clash in the play offs on Saturday with the winner in each of the ties getting elevated to the Davis Cup Africa and Euro Group II tournament. The sides that finish in the bottom two in each pool will also face off with the losers getting relegated to Davis Cup Africa Group IV.
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