Three home players Thursday cruised into the men’s singles semi-finals of the ongoing Britam Kenya Open Tennis Championship at the Nairobi Club.
Top seed Ismail Changawa led compatriots Ibrahim Kibet Yego and Albert Njogu into Friday’s last four stage after impressive quarter-final victories on Thursday.
It would have been four Kenyan players in Friday’s penultimate stage of the tourney, but Burundi’s Abdul Shakur Kabura spoiled the party after a 6-1 6-3 win over number seven seed Petty Andanda in their last eight clash.
Three-time champion and favourite Ismael Changawa had no problems as he dispatched Burundi’s Cumma Issa 6-2, 6-2 to make it to his fifth straight semi-final.
The Kenyan number one will look to erase the painful memories of last year’s semi-final loss to compatriot Sheil Kotecha, who is absent from this year’s tourney.
“It is two matches to another title and I need to stay focused and avoid any complacency. I was the favourite last year but it ended in disappointment. I want to make things write this year,” the US-based player said.
His opponent for place in tomorrow’s final is fifth seed Albert Njogu, who downed Boris Aguma of Uganda 6-1, 6-1 to qualify for his first semi-final at the annual tourney.
And the 17-year-old admits it will be a bitter sweet experience as he takes on his tennis idol.
“Ismail is the best player in the country and an inspiration to many of us upcoming players. It will be an honour to play against him and to beat him would be a dream come true,” Njogu said.
Their clash means that Kenya is guaranteed a player in the final.
The other last four tie will pit second seed Ibrahim Kibet against Burundi’s Kabura. Second seed Kibet comfortably saw off Tanzania’s Frank Menard 6-3, 6-3.
Kibet will look to go one better having lost out to last year’s champion Duncan Mugabe of Uganda 7-5, 7-6(2) in the semi-final.
Kibet had to be at his best, recovering from 3-1 down in the first set to hit eight aces to break the Tanzanian, who was making his debut in the competition.
Kibet was in cruise control in the second set and comfortably saw out the tie with some brilliant serves.
“I have had a good run in the competition and strongly believe that this could finally be the year that I win the Kenya Open,” Kibet said.
The women’s singles’ semi-finals will also take centre stage on Friday with final slots up for grabs.
Three-time winner Shufaa Changawa of Kenya battles Madagascar’s Narindra Ranaivo, as Alicia Owegi comes up against second- seed Angela Okutoyi in an all-Kenyan affair.
The men’s winner will pocket Sh90,000, while the women’s champion goes home with Sh80,000.
Ismael Changawa (KEN) v Albert Njogu (KEN)
Ibrahim Kibert (KEN) v Abdoul Shakur Kabura (BUR)
Shufaa Changawa (KEN) v Narindra Ranaivo (MAD)
Alicia Owegi (KEN) v Angela Okutoyi (KEN)