Kotecha remains the girl to watch as she downs South Africa’s Van der Merwe


As the African 14 & Under Masters hosts play on the penultimate day of the Championships, Kenya’s Sneha Kotecha is the girl to watch in the group of four elite players going for the top four positions.
In Saturday’s action, Kotecha fought off a strong assault from South Africa’s Lara van der Merwe.
Kotecha broke her opponent in the fourth game of the opener after the South African double faulted on the penultimate point to hand the advantage to Kenya.
The break was consolidated in the very next game for a 3-2 advantage to Kotecha. A game later, the favour would be returned when Kotecha also dropped her serve to have van der Merwe lead for the first time. Parity was restored at 4-4 to set up a grand stand towards the close. Four straight points from Kotecha put her in the driver’s seat followed immediately by the most important break of the set to hand the opening set to Kotecha, 6-4.
The second set would go the distance with van der Merwe holding a 5-3 lead and a game from setting up a deciding set. Kotecha however held her mettle to level at 5-5 with the set ending up in a nail biting tie breaker which went to the girl from down south, 9-7 in the tie break.
With new balls in the third and final set, Kotecha put the second set’s disappointment aside to win the opening game. van der Merwe would however only win one game in the set – the second – to give the Kenyan captain Caroline Oduor who was courtside the scare of her life. Kotecha was however solid in the remainder of the set as she raced to a five game winning streak to put Kenya in prime position for the Girls title.
With Kotecha standing tall in the Girls’ draw, the other Kenyan in the 14 Masters, Ryan Randiek has been plagued by tough times in the boys draw. Randiek will be playing for position 5 and 6 having lost two matches in the Pool stages.
Across the fence at Nairobi Club it is semi finals day of the African Nations Cup with Kenya’s team in dire straits. The home boys found the team from the Atlas a steep hill to climb. In the morning’s first Singles match in a tie involving two Singles and a Doubles, Ismael Changawa played Morocco’s Yassine Idmbarek with Captain Rosemary Owino’s plan for Morocco’s downfall having been fine tuned earlier. Idmbarek’s solid baseline game was tough for Changawa to handle as the Kenyan went down 1-6 in the opening set. Changawa tried harder in the second set but went down 4-6 to hand the Moroccans a 1-0 lead heading into the second Singles rubber.
Sheil Kotecha had the unenviable job of bringing the hosts back from the brink of defeat when he played top seed Amine Ahouda in the second Singles. A 2-6 1-6 loss would however give the North Africans an unassailable 2-0 lead heading into the afternoon’s Doubles.
Kenya’s women faced the same North African opponents as their male counterparts. The first match was a whitewash in favour of Morocco with Diae El Jardi owning Faith Nyabera Omurunga 6-0 6-1 and Kenya’s number one Shufaa Changawa losing to Rita Atik 3-6 2-6.
The only live match of the day heading into the Doubles is the tie between Tunisia and Congo – DRC’s men. The tie stands at 1-1 with an interesting Doubles match to follow. Tomorrow sees Kenya play for the 3rd and 4th position against the loser of the Tunisia – Congo DRC tie.
Kenya v Morocco – Men
Ismael Changawa Mzai lost to Yassine Idmbarek   – 1-6 4-6
Sheil Kotecha lost to Amine Ahouda – 2-6 1-6
Doubles to follow
Kenya v Morocco – Women
Faith Nyabera Omurunga lost to Diae El Jardi – 0-6 1-6
Shufaa Changawa lost to Rita Atik – 3-6 2-6
Doubles to Follow
Tunisia v Congo DRC – Men
Aziz Ouakaa (TUN) bt Sarma Nkulufa (COD) – 6-0 6-1
Denis Indondo (COD) bt Moez Echargui (TUN) 4-6 6-0 6-1
Doubles to Follow
Tunisia v Congo DRC – Women
Ferdaous Bahri (TUN) bt Magali Ilumbe (COD) – 6-0 6-0
Mouna Bouzgarrou (TUN) bt Nancy Onya (COD) – 6-4 6-2


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