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We shall take Kenya tennis to higher level; say brothers in Davis Cup team

2019 DAVIS CUP

EUROPE/AFRICA GROUP II:

Belarus                  – Lithuania            – *Namibia

Denmark              – Luxembourg        – Norway

*Egypt                  – Montenegro        – Romania

Estonia                  -Monaco               – *South Africa

*Kenya                  –*Morocco           – *Zimbabwe

*African nations

EURO/AFRICA GROUP I

Finland                 – Ukraine

Israel                       – (Any loser of World Group qualifier

                                   from the Euro/Africa    zone – See teams below)

Poland

WORLD GROUP QUALIFYING ROUND

(Euro/Africa teams):

Hungary                    – Portugal

The Netherlands         – Bosnia & Herzegovina

Russia                         – Slovakia

Ismael Changawa Mzai (left) and Ibrahim Kibet Yego the triumphant doubles with score at Nairobi Club centre court over Benin that propelled Kenya to the 2019 Davis Cup Europe/Africa Group II tournament in September

Ismael Changawa Mzai (left) and Ibrahim Kibet Yego,  the triumphant doubles,  with the score at Nairobi Club centre court over Benin that propelled Kenya to the 2019 Davis Cup Europe/Africa Group II tournament in September

KENYA have seven months to prepare a good enough tennis team to take part in September’s Davis Cup European/Africa Group II and prove that their rise from the lower Africa Group III last year was a trail blazer to further heights in the world.

Kenya, promoted alongside Namibia now rank among European teams of traditional tennis pedigree and furthermore, finding themselves on the same level as fellow Africans South Africa, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Morocco, the incentive will be to make sure they at least drop the standard of being on the top of the continent.

The other four African teams, plus Tunisia, were above Kenya last year. Top dogs South Africa were in Euro/Africa Group I but after a 2-3 defeat by Israel in the first round and further 0-4 defeat at the hands of Portugal, the Africans alongside Belarus were relegated to Euro/Africa Gp II this season.

Kenya coach Rosemary Owino (right) gives tips to Ismael Changawa Mzai in one of the encounters at Nairobi Club center court -- Davis Cup Africa Group III tenis, June 2018

Kenya coach Rosemary Owino (right) gives tips to Ismael Changawa Mzai in one of the encounters at Nairobi Club center court — Davis Cup Africa Group III tennis, June 2018

Morocco beat Georgia 3-1 and lost 0-5 to Romania; Zimbabwe beat Turkey 3-1 and lost 1-4 to Poland but managed to hold their place in Euro/Africa Gp II but Tunisia’s double losses of; 2-3 to both Finland and Estonia relegated them to Africa Group III, swapping places with Namibia and Kenya, top placed in the group tournament held at Nairobi Club, Kenya between 18 and 23 June 2018.

Kenya will be relishing a return to the Euro/Africa stage, a level they once occupied with Zimbabwe and from which Zimbabwe rose to the climax World Group stage propelled by the famous Black brothers. On April 5, 1998, brothers Byron and Wayne Black led Zimbabwe to a shock victory over Australia in the country’s first appearance in the Davis Cup World Group.

Sheil Kotecha at Nairobi Club Centre Court takes on way toi beating Uganda's ... in Davis Cup Africa Group III tennis last June

Sheil Kotecha at Nairobi Club Centre Court takes on way to beating Uganda’s … in Davis Cup Africa Group III tennis last June

The duo played all of the tie and both won reverse singles contests after Australia led 2-1 following the singles and doubles.

Kenya are now at par with Africa’s best and set to take on Europe, including some teams that Kenya has met before such as Denmark (lost 0-5) and Lithuania who have beaten Kenya in both two meetings.

Even in the last Africa Group III qualifiers in Nairobi, expectation was high and national fervor gripped the country as the country qualified to loftier heights. The Davis Cup team suddenly became one of the few endeared national teams – on the scale of national football (Harambee Stars), athletics teams and the Kenya Sevens rugby team. All eyes are the next step the Davis Cup tennis team will take.

News of the Davis Cup team members taking part in tennis activity are now being followed closely. Such as team member Kevin Cheruiyot being in Australia for “work” alongside the Australian Open.

The Kenya Davis Cup team at the recent qualifying Nairobi tournament was:

  • Sheil Kotecha
  • Ismael Changawa Ruwa Mzai
  • Kevin Cheruiyot
  • Ibrahim Kibet Yego
Kevin Cheruiyot in more action in Nairobi

Kevin Cheruiyot in more action in Nairobi

Ibrahim Kibet Yego and Kevin “Ziggy” Cheruiyot are brothers and last year, they spent three months in Melbourne, Australia training to get experience before they represented Kenya at the Davis Cup. They hosted by one of our tennis families.

Now “Ziggy” has just completed another stint in Melbourne, alongside the Australian Open, which he hopes will give in a good stead ahead of September’s Davis Cup clashes. He served as one of the hitting partners during the recent Australian Open. A hitting partner is a player that helps the main players practice strokes during training. The 22-year-old Cheruiyot moved to Australia last year after the Davis Cup to improve his game.

Celebrations (above and below) in Nairobi as Kenya's pace picks up to higher level of Davis Cup tennis

Celebrations (above and below) in Nairobi as Kenya’s pace picks up to higher level of Davis Cup tennis

“It has offered me a different experience to what we are used to in Kenya. I now train differently and the experience is amazing. I learnt a lot during the Australian Open by being close and training with the world’s best. It motivates me to chase my dream.”

Cheruiyot said Kenyan tennis is on an upward trajectory and will soon be in a position to challenge the world’s best, starting with promotion to the Europe/Africa Zone Group One.

“With a little help from our sponsors and better training, this team will easily battle for its place in the big leagues. You can imagine what we can achieve with more support,” he said.

Tennis Kenya chairman James Kenani (right) and coach and administrator Peter Wachira at Nairobi Club where work goes on to improve personnel, infrastructure, training and commercial standards for the sport in the country

Tennis Kenya chairman James Kenani (right) and coach and administrator Peter Wachira at Nairobi Club where work goes on to improve personnel, infrastructure, training and commercial standards for the sport in the country

Coach Rosemary Owino said Cheruiyot’s experience will help his young team overcome stage fright when they start their Europe/Africa Zone Group Two matches.

“The experience and the opportunity will no doubt help him overcome several challenges and improve his game ahead of the 2019 season, especially during the Davis Cup. Any young player would love to be a hitting partner in the Australian Open, considering the experience one is bound to gain,” Owino said.

Paul Wekesa -- (left, and below) with athletics great Paul Tergat, current chairman of National Olympic Committee of Kenya -- was in the Kenya Davis Cup team that went all the way to top of the European/Africa Group in the 1990s

Paul Wekesa — (left, and below) with athletics great Paul Tergat, current chairman of National Olympic Committee of Kenya — was in the Kenya Davis Cup team that went all the way to top of the European/Africa Group in the 1990s

Some facts about Kenya Davis Cup team brothers, Kevin “Ziggy” Cheruiyot and Ibrahim Kibet Yego as told by Kibet:

Where did your passion for tennis begin? 
We come from Mombasa, Kenya and we currently live in Nairobi. Tennis was introduced to us at an early age of 10 and my little brother Kevin was eight. Our late grandfather used to watch Serena Williams on television and also got us to watch it with him. It made us develop an interest in the sport. Grandpa though we should also play because it would be good for our future and something we could enjoy in the long run.

Is tennis popular in Kenya? 
Not as popular as football or Track and Field which Kenyan’s are worldwide known. Despite all that, Kenyan Tennis was not that bad before our generation. Our country was at one time (in the 1990s) just a tier away from the Davis Cup World Group. We hope to take it to greater heights. The current surface we use is clay/murram but the bounce is not very even. Playing on that surface is kind of hard because the bounce is not always even and so it makes it hard to train on.

Brothers Kevin Cheruiyiot (left) and Ibrahim Kibet Yego relax at Nairobi Club at break from Davis Cup Africa Group III tennis last June

Brothers Kevin Cheruiyiot (left) and Ibrahim Kibet Yego relax at Nairobi Club at break from Davis Cup Africa Group III tennis last June

What ((as brothers) has been your greatest tennis achievement? 
(For Ibrahim Kibet Yego) – Winning the African junior championship doubles, playing in the Junior Davis Cup, ITF junior championship doubles titles, finishing a junior ranking at 800 in the world and being in the Kenya Davis team:’

(Kevin Cheruiyot) – Finishing the ITF junior ranking as a high of 255 in the world and making Kenya Davis Cup team only age 15.

What are your training goals while here in Melbourne?
Our goals are to play as much tennis as we can and play with as many different players as possible. The level of tennis is high and we know that if we use our time well we will gain a lot of experience and we will improve a lot.

Ibrahim Kibet Yego (left) and Kevin Cheruiyot (right) in Melbourne, Australia last year where they trained for three months before playing for Kenya at the Davis Cup

Ibrahim Kibet Yego (left) and Kevin Cheruiyot (right) in Melbourne, Australia last year where they trained for three months before playing for Kenya at the Davis Cup

What are your future tennis goals? 

To represent Kenya and hope to go all the way to the Davis Cup World Group. Maybe get to play in one of the Grand Slams before we finish our career in tennis. Also plan to open up a tennis academy to help the less fortunate kids because there is a lot of talent back at home but the resources are very little and not everyone can get to them. Our biggest plan is to raise the level of tennis in Kenya.

-Additional reporting by tennisworld.net.au

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