Zimbabwe Jr Tennis Team off to Promising Start in Kenya

Team Zimbabwe has claimed mostly victories so far at the ITF East African 18 and under Junior Circuit Tournament occurring in Nairobi, Kenya January 26-31. Zimbabwe registered a team of six, but at the last minute was only able to send a team of four junior tennis players, three boys and one girl, for the Grade 4 ITF tournament in Kenya.

The young team hoped to use the tournament both for exposure to playing on clay courts as well as to gain or improve their ITF rankings. Of the three boys, all placed in the main draw, Andile Sibanda has an ITF ranking of #1421 coming in to the tournament, while teammates Dennis Moses and Munesu Chatikobo are not yet ranked. Julius Mutetwa, with a rank of 1592, failed to travel. On the girls side, Rufaro Chirewa, who medaled at the Region 5 games in Bulawayo in December, comes into the tournament in position 11 with an ITF rank of 885. Teammate Zahra Finnegan who currently holds an ITF ranking of 1061 failed to travel, citing funding constraints.

In the first round of singles, Chirewa lost to Victoria Kalaitzis of Belgium 5-7, 3-6. However, in the doubles where she joined Stephanie Mbaya of Kenya, the duo beat team Angel Macleod of Nigeria and Nesrine Troubia of Algeria in straight sets 6-3, 6-2. Chirewa and Mbaya will advance to the quarter finals today.

On the boys side singles competition, Zimbabwe’s Dennis Moses beat Albert Njogu of Kenya 6-2, 6-1 while Andile Sibanda beat Fabrice Tuyishime of Rwanda 6-3, 6-3. Chatikobo, a L6 student at Hellenic Academy, tired after two tights sets and succumbed to Ali Sahibzada Muhammad of Pakistan in a tight three set match 6-4, 6(5)-7, and 1-6.

Chatikobo’s doubles team with Saidi Nkurunziza, lost again in a three set match 3=6, 7-5,9-11. Sibanda joined Belgium’s Kobe Vandelanotte as a doubles team to defeat Sulle Omary Hamisi and Frank Menadi of Tanzania 5-7, 6-3, 10-6 in a tiring but thrilling match. Both doubles teams advance to the quarter finals.