Changawas sparkle as Kenya Open ends in controversy

Duncan Mugabe of Uganda reacts against Ernest Habiyambere of Rwanda during their men singles Britam ...
Duncan Mugabe of Uganda reacts against Ernest Habiyambere of Rwanda during their men singles Britam Kenya Open Championship 2016 Championship at the Nairobi Club in Nairobi, Kenya on June 23, 2016.Mugabe won 6/3,7/5 Photo/Oliver Ananda/

The 2016 Britam Kenya Open concluded in Nairobi on Saturday under a storm of controversy when the men’s singles second seed, Ugandan Duncan Mugabe, was sensationally disqualified ahead of the final against Kenyan favourite and US based Ismail Changawa.

While Ismail got a walkover to his third successive title, his sister Shufaa was forced to recover from a set down to reclaim the women’s singles crown she lost last year after out-lasting compatriot Stephanie Mbaya in marathon three sets of 4-6, 7-6 (4) and 6-3 in a thriller that lifted some of the gloom.

The siblings then teamed up to romp to the mixed doubles title while Shufaa was a losing finalist in the women’s doubles as the Changawa winning-act once again dominated the country’s invitational international tournament.

Drama unfolded late Friday when Mugabe and his men’s doubles partner, countryman Simon Avella were involved in a fight after their semi final that saw a disciplinary hearing convened and they paid the high penalty of being thrown out of the tournament, banned from playing in Kenya for a year and fined Ksh10,000 each.

The Committee composed of Tennis Kenya officials, referees and coaches found them guilty of gross misconduct and bringing the game to disrepute after the ill-tempered conclusion to the semi they incidentally won against Kenyan pair Mohammed Omary and Albert Njogu.

According to reports, trouble flared up when the victors crossed over to mid court, as is custom, to greet their vanquished opponents but the gesture was not taken in the spirit it deserved sparking an argument where allegedly, Mugabe spat on one of the Kenyans sparking a free for all.

Omary and Njogu escaped a ban but they were also fined Ksh10,000 each for their part in the melee whose exact details were scanty because officials and players interviewed were not keen to comment on the unsavoury incident that marred what was otherwise was a week of good tennis.

“There was an altercation between the players after the end of the men’s doubles semi final which culminated with an exchange of blows and match officials had to intervene. Tennis is a gentleman’s sport and as the federation will not have that,” Tennis Kenya Chairman James Kenani offered as explanation.

With Mugabe out of the way, Ismail was reduced to an exhibition match player as his sister, Shufaa recovered from a set down to complete the first Changawa siblings men and women singles sweep at the Open since 2014 as action concluded at Nairobi Club.

Changawa however, rued not facing the Ugandan in the final as he had been pumped up for another riveting showdown with his biggest rival in the region.

“Yes, I am happy I have won the men’s title. It’s  been a good day for our family since my sister won her singles final. Our parents are really overjoyed and they really wanted to be here but could not make it due to unavoidable circumstances.”

The corresponding women’s decider did not disappoint after a hard fought contest as the top seed, Shufaa  went down in the first set but battled back from 4-2 in the second to force a tie-breaker which the Mombasa based ace eventually took.

The third set was an exhilarating affair as Mbaya, the 2015 Junior Open champion, fought back from 40-0 in the first game to win but could not contend with the 2014 winner who finally won the set 6-3.

“I’m very pleased with my performance today; I’ve taken back the title I lost in 2015 but I really wanted to win the doubles as well. Faith and Nancy played very well and kudos to them,” said Shufaa.

In other results, Ismail Mzai and Ibrahim Kibet won the men’s doubles title after brushing off the Kenyan pair of Petty Andanda and Ronnie Ndinya 6-1 6-3 while Kenyan Faith Nyabera and Congolese Nancy Onya fought back to disappoint the pairing of Shufaa and Angela Okutoyi in the ladies doubles in three sets of 3-6, 6-4 and 10-5.

The Changawa siblings wrapped the action by winning the mixed doubles title after defeating Congolese Nancy Onya and Ugandan David Oringa in two sets of 6-0 6-3.

Changawa, the man of the moment, brought an end to the day’s proceedings by defeating Rwandan sixth seed Ernest Habiyamberi 4-1 in an exhibition match late in the evening.

“We had prepared an exhibition match for the chief guest, Henry Rotich the Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury who had been looking forward to watch the men’s final which sadly did not take place,” reiterated the Chairman.

Report by Eric Kagunda

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