Dawda marches ahead in KCB Kenya Open

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By Oscar Pilipili and Erick Ochieng’

Three Kenyans, including Nikita Dawda, 14, have qualified for the tennis semi-finals of KCB Kenya Open.

Dawda who is seeded sixth and top seed Caroline Odour sailed through in the ladies singles while fifth seed Allan Cooper sailed through in the men’s singles.

Dawda caused a major upset when she beat Burundian third seed Sakina Nshirimana 6-3, 7-5 to reach the semis.

Nikita Dawda at the KCB Kenya Open at Nairobi Club. She beat Sakina Nshirimana 6-3, 7-5 in the quarter-finals to qualify for semi-finals on Thursday. [PHOTO: Martin Mukangu/Standard]

The Hillcrest Secondary student, Dawda, is placed 697 in the current International Tennis Federation junior ranking, making her the best Kenyan girl.

Special exemption

Her fairy tale run in the Kenya Open started when she entered the 2007 with special exemption from Kenya Lawn Tennis Association since she was underage.

She reached the semi-finals only to lose to Wendy Chen of Taipei. Nshirimana’s sister and second seed Asiza Butoyi defeated eighth seed Christina Lukalo 6-1, 6-2 in the quarters to set a semi-final duel with Dawda.

In the top tier of the draw, Oduor overcame youngster Joie Keter 6-1, 6-2 to qualify for the semi-finals.

Oduor play local-based South African Ohmer Fernandez who overcame Mary Wachira with straight sets of 6-1, 6-1 in their quarters yesterday.

Fifth seed Cooper outclassed compatriot and fourth seed Francis Rogoi 6-3, 6-0 at the quarters to advance.

Cooper faces top seed Duncan Mugabe of Uganda, the 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 winner over Kenyan star Gilbert Kibet, in the semi-finals today.

Second seed Jean Claude Gasigwa of Rwanda face Zimbabwe third seed Martin Dzuwa in the second semi-final clash. This year’s tournament and specifically the men’s singles is the most competitive ever.

Mugabe boasts of Association of Tennis Professionals rankings while Cooper, Dzuwa and Gasigwa are all former champions.

And with all the top three players present and with boys now separated from men, the semis are expected to be equally thrilling and competitive. The ladies singles will not be that easy either with each one of the semi-finalists chasing own goals.

Oduor hopes to clinch the title to bring her tally this season to three, having won Burundi and Rwanda Open before coming to Nairobi.

Fernandez is competing in the event for the first time and a win would be historic for her while Dawda would like to be the youngest champion ever.

Butoyi stunned everyone when she won the Nairobi Leg of East Africa Junior Circuit in 2006 and a second major title here is her dream.

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