Shufaa Changawa, 25, and her brother Ismael Changawa, 22, have made a name for themselves in the tennis world. Shufaa tell us more about their sporting family, career and more
Where did your interest for the sport come from?
We grew up in a family in which my siblings were already progressing smoothly in the sport. My three elder brothers Juma Changawa, Khalid Changawa and Faiz Khan set the tempo for us. The fact that they represented the country well in their heyday just gave Ishmael and I the push.
Have your parents been supportive of you?
We have all the encouragements, blessings and the support from the family. Without our parents’ support I think nobody would have known or recognised us as tennis players.
Would you consider yourselves rivals?
Not really. First, we can never face each other due to gender issue.
But I believe we do psyche each other up and are always supportive of each other even during bad times. Blood is thicker than water, you know.
How do you relate with your brother?
We are not only siblings. I consider him my best friend, my coach, my biggest supporter and we inspire each other. He might be younger, but I believe he mentors me to get better in my game. Off the court, we do hang out and have fun plus we know each other’s cliques, so it is one big family.
How do you guys handle all the attention you receive?
We entirely put our focus on the game, which is the most important aspect at the end of the day. It is not that we do not appreciate our fans, but we try not to gloat or be overly carried away. Make no mistake though, we absolutely adore our fans for all the support we get from them all the time.
What is Ismael’s biggest weakness?
He is overconfident especially when playing. Anytime he is on the court he oozes control and always wants a win. It is not that he brags, but his self-belief at times can go a bit overboard.
What do you admire most in Ismael?
I can confidently say that I admire the courage and bravery in this young man. His fighting spirit and positive nature is really admirable and this will obviously take him far.
What is your drive and focus?
My dream and ambition is to play tennis at a top level. This drives me and keeps me cruising towards that goal.
What is this one thing not so many people know about Ishmael?
He is a social person. He makes friends with 80 per cent of the people he meets for the first time. But when you meet him for the first time, he has this calm demeanor as opposed to the fiery nature on the courts.
Any special rituals before a match?
Of course, giving thanks to Allah for the gift of life, talent and health. And asking Him to play alongside us. He is the Maker and Giver, so all the time we put our mercies in His hand.
Who is the better one at the game and why?
(Laughs) I think we are equally good. He is a top star and so am I. We more or less have similar qualities and so it would be unfair to back one over the other on this one. What is evident is that our star will be shining for much longer as individual players.
Five years down the line, what’s the plan for you guys?
God willing, we will still be active in the game. We have been grateful for where we have reached but we are definitely not at the final spot. Our target is to learn more in the process and of course play at the topmost level with Allah’s guidance, the sky is the limit for us. It is our belief and hope that we can get to the level of our superstar role models Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal, who have done big things in this sport.
What do the two of you attribute your successes to?
Obviously, to Allah our Creator. Our family and the Kenya Lawn Tennis Association have been a great inspiration all through. Our coaches and technical team for the courage they have to make us believe in us all the time. Last, our amazing fans all over for having our back, they have been incredible.