Gasigwa's presence missed at Kenya Open, Changawa back for title defense

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Aug 16, 2021
  • The presence, charisma, fighting spirit and love for the game by Jean-Claude Gasigwa will be missed by his fellow players and tennis fans. (SNA: File Photo)

When he Britam Kenya Open Tennis championships served off at Nairobi Club on Saturday with the men's singles qualifiers, there will be a vacuum with one of the regular players missing.

He is Rwanda’s Jean Claude Gasigwa who tragically passed away in 2014. His presence, charisma, fighting spirit and love for the game will be missed by his fellow players and tennis fans. Tennis officials  secretly admit they were fond of his humorous combativeness towards them, on and off the tennis court.

Gasigwa has been an attraction at the Nairobi Club courts each year for the last decade but did not win the highly coveted men's singles title. He reached the final several times, the last one was when he battled Uganda's Duncan Mugabe in a three-set thriller.

The loveable player died while doing what he loved most – fitness training - to improve his tennis. His explosive serve, delivered from a towering height of six foot four inches, a hard to read forehand and a devastatingly effective single backhand – when it worked – are a big loss to this year’s event and many more to follow.

A record 64 players from Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Japan entered the men's singles qualifying matches seeking spots in the main draw which starts on Monday.

Ismael Changawa, last year’s men's singles champion is in the country to defend his title. He is a student at Seminal State College in Oklahoma where he will be returning after the tournament.

Standing in his way to a back to back win are Zambia’s Edgar Kazembe - a past champion in the same year the Chipolopolo won the Cup of Nations and Uganda’s David Oringa – a frequent visitor.

Others include Fazal Mohamed Khan who trained Changawa on the hard courts of Mombasa before the younger man left in a quest for better tennis and education. Last year’s losing finalist Duncan Mugabe is not in Nairobi. He is currently playing in the ITF Futures circuit in Egypt.

A host of junior players seeking to overthrow the current generation are also entered in the Britam Kenya Open proper after trying their hand in last week’s junior version of the same event. They are Kenya-based Ethiopian Abdella Nedim, Ryan Randiek, Petty Andanda, the Nzuki twins and Sheil Kotecha among others.

Changawa has her plate full

Shufaa Changawa, the defending women's champion has her plate full and faces familiar foes in Caroline Oduor whom she beat in last year’s final, Stephanie Mbaya – the Britam Junior Kenya Open champion who seeks to challenge her seniors, Burundi’s Sada Nahimana who is based at the ITF Centre in Morocco, the ever green Evelyn Otula and a blast from the past Burundian Sakina Nshimirimana.

One player who could upset the form books, and a dark horse for the Kenya Open title is UK-based Kenyan Nikita Dawda. She will be one to look out for as the week progresses.

A Tanzanian contingent is expected to stiffly challenge their Kenyan counterparts in the Wheel Chair event, with the old guard doing battle in the Veterans which sees 2014 champion Sam Kipkoech looking for a brace of titles.

Finally the 2015 Britam Kenya Open will have singing sensation Kanjii Mbugua gracing Centre Court at Nairobi Club bringing back his days of yore when he played tennis as a junior. Maybe he’ll belt out a tune at the prize giving and closing ceremony even if he doesn’t lift the men's title,.

Elswewhere, Kevin Cheruiyot rewrote the history books by reaching the semi finals of the World Ranking ITF South Central Tennis Circuit being played in Zimbabwe. Cheruiyot achieved this by causing a major upset.

He beat the second seeded player from South Africa, Calvin Jordaan 7-6(4), 7-6(5). Earlier own Kevin had beaten Seed 8, Tadiwa Chinamo, of Zimbabwe 5-5,2-6,6-2 to reach the quarters. Cheruiyot had a bye in the first round and in the second round beat David Sedlar of Czechoslovakia 6-3,6-2.

Cheruiyot is traveling on sponsorship by Tennis Kenya through the newly created Player Development Fund. The Fund is to assist players gain exposure and improve on their World Ranking by participating in numerous International Tournaments.

The player is part of the team to All Africa Games and the experience he is currently getting will be valuable.

Other Kenyan players participating in the ITF South/Central Circuit are Olivier Kigotho who lost 2-6,0-6 to Sitejas Mopuri of India in the first round and Sheil Kotecha who lost 1-6,3-6 to Siphosothando Montsi of South Africa.

Compiled by Tournament Organizers