On the fourth day of the 9th Kenya International Junior Circuit 2017, Albert Njogu stands as the sole Kenyan in the entire tournament with the rest having been eliminated in the opening rounds.
Njogu (pictured) is producing some of his best tennis as the third and final week of the ITF 18 & Under Junior Championships rolls on.
An opening round encounter that looked a huge hill to surmount saw Njogu win in a hard fought fight against France’s Ugo Fiorito. The opening set tie break went the way of the Frenchman – just – with Fiorito edging it 7-5 before a second set also looked to go the full distance. With a break however, Njogu bagged the second set 7-5 to set up what a partisan crowd expected to be a nail biting final set. This was not to be as the crowd’s favourite raced to a third set win without losing a single game to earn a debilitating 6-7(5) 7-5 6-0 win to put him into the second round.
Today (Tuesday) saw Njogu on Court No. 7 against a much fancied opponent, Italy’s Lorenzo Rottoli – the Italian who had last year come from the qualifying rounds to win a leg of the 18 & Under Circuit. The opening set was a close affair but the Italian, seeded seventh drew first blood with a 6-4 win.
The heat may have been getting to the players as both took a comfort break at the end of the opener before Njogu came back to completely dominate the second set. Serving for a 4-0 lead however, he buckled under the pressure and let Rottoli back, earning the Italian one of the breaks he needed to get back to par. That was as far as he would get as Njogu raced to consecutive games to win the set 6-1. The third and final set was a nervy affair for the higher ranked player with an animated Njogu pressing hard, buoyed by the support and chants of the small but vocal Kenyan crowd – and one Moroccan. 4-6 6-1 6-3 was the only result possible as Njogu appeased his fans for his Week One and Two lucklustre losses.
Up next for Njogu will be the challenge of the 15th seeded Spaniard Javier Cueto Ramos in the third round as Njogu looks to keep a promise he made this week to still be playing on the last day of the Circuit.
Tanzania’s Emmanuel Mallya Nicodemo, seeded fifth is also having a fantastic tournament, playing a majority of the best trick shots that are on display at Nairobi Club this week. He plays Spain’s Marc Feliu Gomez for a Quarterfinal slot tomorrow.