Three times champion Shufaa Changawa of Kenya will face junior prodigy and compatriot Angela Okutoyi in the Britam Kenya Open Tennis Championships women’s final on Saturday at the Nairobi Club.
Shufaa’s younger brother Ismael also eased through to the men’s final and will face compatriot and Davis Cup teammate Ibrahim Kibet.
Both the men and women’s semi-finals played under a warm and sunny morning were watched by among other First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, who took her time to mingle with players and fans on Friday.
Shufaa, 24, tore through Narindra Ranaivo from Madagascar with her powerful forehand, winning in straight sets of 6-0, 6-2. What also gave Shufaa the advantage was Ranaivo’s rash to finish her serves.
Okutoyi, 14, who is fresh from winning the Africa Under-14 title last weekend in Algeria, employed her superb serves to send Alicia Owegi packing with a 6-3, 6-3 defeat.
Shufaa is chasing her fourth title after her previous success in 2011, 2014 and 2016, while it’s the first time Okutoyi is making the women’s final.
Ismael withstood a tough first set to dismiss Albert Njogu, a form four student at Mbagathi in straight sets of 6-3, 6-0 and set his sights on the fourth title. Ismael won Kenya Open men’s title from 2014 to 2016.
Kibet weathered a slow start to stop Abdul Shakur Kabura from Burundi in 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 and reach his maiden final.
“My forehand worked well even though my backhand was a bit tight,” said Shufaa, who will be meeting Okutoyi for the second time since their semi-final clash in 2016, where Shufaa reigned supreme 6-2, 6-4.
Shufaa expects a tough battle with Okutoyi.
“She has improved greatly and we should expect an edge seater,” said Shufaa, who intends to play a relaxed game devoid of many errors.
“This is a big match for me since people want a young and new champion,” said Okutoyi, adding that her good serves and placing Owegi on wrong footing did the trick for her on her way to her maiden final.
Okutoyi said her continental victory should inspire her to another success even though Shufaa oozes experience.
“I know Shufaa is a strong player and I admire her but let her prepare well since I am going to give my best,” explained Okutoyi.
Ismael pinned Njogu on his weak backhand to lead 2-0, before the teen gave a good account of himself with good rallies to bring the first set at 3-2. Ismael used his powerful rallies to bring the match at 4-2, but Njogu rallied with good serves to take the game at 4-3.
Thereafter, Njogu lacked patience as his return serves and backhand failed him against the serving Ismael, who took the game to 5-3. Ismael would break Njogu’s serve to take the set 6-3.
Njogu gave in easily to let Ismael win the second set flawless.
“I had trained hard and well after I lost the title last year to Uganda’s Duncan Mugabe. I knew a fourth title won’t come on a silver platter,” said Ismael.