Barry Silah @obel_barry
It has been one year of promise in matters tennis in the country as local players shone in a number of key tournaments. Lots of talents have been unearthed in the process with coaches in schools and clubs working overtime.
This has been observed through the emergence of players in the shape of Brandon Sagala, Mutuku Mwendwa, Cynthia Cheruto and Claire Muthoni into the ranks.
However special mention goes to the tier two group that includes Albert Njogu, Ryan Randiek, Sneha Kotecha and Angela Okutoyi who have been phenomenal.
Okutoyi, 14, in particular had a stellar season even by her own standards. She is the youngest individual to ever hold the Africa Junior Championships and Kenya Open titles in the same year.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) East Africa Tennis Centre protégé is considered the new heir to the throne locally especially after her easy Britam Kenya Open finale in September to a player she once considered her idol and Kenya number one; Shufaa Changawa.
Njogu, 17, has also been sensational and twice being a finalist in ITF events held in Nairobi and the region. His big hitting and fearless attitude has earned him plaudits across the tennis ecosystem.
However 2018 has witnessed some big upsets in the game with pundits admitting the game is changing face locally.
Established names have tumbled in tournaments that matter either because of complacency or competitiveness. Kenya’s scene is slowly changing to adapt to new order in the game especially after the Changawa siblings lost their status this year in the Kenya Open finals to Ibrahim Kibet and young lass Angela Okutoyi who collectively in her tender age has at least 20 titles to her name.
Kevin Cheruiyot and Sheil Kotecha who are some of the senior players currently have been moving around the globe on invitational tournaments like the ITF Futures for rankings as well as prize money.
The pair who are also doubles partners have been lucky to play some of the tournament bigwigs like Alexis Nkoulou of Benin and Duncan Mugabe of Uganda along their way as they moulded their game.
Tennis Kenya has this year made giant strides through the special visitation of the ITF President David Haggerty mid this year to support the project of putting up a modern tennis centre at Kasarani Stadium in partnership with government. At the same time, the local association has had the opportunity to host at least three high end ITF events which attracted ranking players from around the world.
The biggest news for the Kenyan tennis fraternity was when the Kenyan team clinched a spot on the World Group 2 Davis Cup Championships next year. This was following a hard-fought 2-1 win over Benin in Nairobi under shrewd coach Rosemary Owino.
The icing on the cake was the doubles match when the all-time favourite double pairing of friends Changawa and Kibet won their titanic match against the Benin opponents to take Kenya back to the route of glory days of the 1990s.