Kenya survived a nerve-wrenching scare yesterday during the opener of the Group Three Africa Qualifiers of the Davis Cup at Nairobi Club yesterday.
Despite picking key victories against Team Madagascar in the two men’s singles matches, fans were particularly left in shivers especially during the second rubber.
Kevin Cheruiyot and Ismael Changawa snatched crucial wins ahead of a mouth-watering three-match contest against second seeded Benin.
Top seeded Changawa had to force a tie-break against hard fighting Jean-Jacques Rakotohasy in a three-set thriller winning 6-1,2-6,7-6(2).
After taking under 30 minutes to dispatch the Madagascan opponent in the opening set, the tide changed for the worse in the second set as Changawa immediately fell 2-0 in 10 minutes with most of his errors coming off a slew of double faults.
His follow-up serve was in awry as the mobile challenger ran the whole hog to get the ball and strike with Changawa’s coach Rosemary Owino not impressed with the proceedings.
The crowd hushed when Rakotohasy took the subsequent three games clean with Changawa left bemused as the set was ended just as the first with the Madagascan dropping only two games in the process.
In the third set, Changawa used his raw power to destabilise the opponent but was ruffled when the returns got the desired spots.
However, the young opponent started making errors while leading 5-2 but came back to force a 5-5 score with a good powerful forehand winner.
Changawa dug deep and switched gears by coming close to the net forcing a tie-break which he ultimately won on points off solid aces.
“To be honest, I did not play my best. I felt I relaxed a bit after the first set and he came at me hard in the second.
The biggest issue was that we play similar styles but because of my experience I let go the pressure and converted my points but credit to the opponent for a good match,” Changawa told People Sports.
Earlier on, Cheruiyot saw off Lucas Andriamasilalao 6-4,6-3 in a fairly balanced duel at centre court.
Both players took opportunities to turn gears and spot opportunities but ultimately Cheruiyot closed it out with great composure.