She has turned the tables, flown the flag, proved her worth. Is she Zimbabwe’s new golden girl? Together with her Kenyan partner Stephanie Mbaya, Rufaro Chirewa has today won the Ladies’ Doubles at the 2015 ITF (International Tennis Federation) East African 18 and Under Junior Circuit in Nairobi, Kenya. Formerly of Chisipite Senior, but now homeschooled in Harare to focus more definitively on her tennis, 17 year old former Chisipite student Chirewa entered the competition 11th with an ITF ranking of #885, with her partner Mbaya entering 5th with a ranking of #538.
Chirewa and Mbaya beat formidable favorites, double pair second seed Lexie Stevens of the Netherlands and fourth seed Vicky Geurinckx of Belgium in a tight three set final today 3-6, 6-4, [10-6].
The pair did not have an easy road to victory. They faced sixth and eleventh seeded Runa Ichinose of Japan and Maria Ong of the Philippines in the semi-finals in a tense three set match 6-3, 3-6, [12-10]. In the quarter finals, Chirewa and Mbaya came from behind to beat nationally top pair El Jardi and El Khalifi of Morocco in the quarter-finals with another three set match 5-7, 6-4, [10-7].
Critics questioned Tennis Zimbabwe’s choice to include Chirewa alongside South African based Valeria Bhunu in the recent AUSC Region 5 games, where she again showed her worth bringing home a bronze medal in the doubles event. She was the only locally based tennis player on Team Zimbabwe at the games.
Two of the three boys who travelled to Kenya for the tournament, Andile Sibanda and Dennis Moses, made it to the second round where they crashed out against Kenyan and Moroccan opponents in double set defeats. The fourth member of Team Zimbabwe, Munesu Chatikobo, exited in the first round.
Rufaro’s father Nesbet Chirewa works at St John’s College and is no stranger to the school sports fraternity in Zimbabwe. He has planned a full tennis international circuit for his talented daughter, who just completed and passed her O level examinations, in 2014.
Kenya here I come-ready for new nd great things#help me Lord
— Rufaro Chirewa (@RufaroChirewa) January 21, 2014
As she set off to Nairobi, Rufaro Chirewa tweeted “Kenya here I come – ready for new nd great things #help me Lord.” Indeed new and great things were in store. SSN looks forward to following this upcoming Zimbabwean tennis star.