WHILE East Africa tennis zone prepares to celebrate a happy climax of the 2012 season of Simba Cement Open International Tennis meet in Dar es Salaam on Saturday, Tanzania's hope for top honors has wilted like roses on a sunny day.
And, the local hosts' seven year wait in this prestigiously money spinning event is set to extend for God knows when, if the only player in the top four Shabani Lila fails to overcome a heated pressure posed by Zambian debutant Edga Kazembe. Although the event, otherwise smooth progress has since kickoff on Tuesday been disrupted by a drizzle, visiting players have shown their class to outwit local athletes and the highest prize of USD 1,000 is only minutes away from crossing the border.
Thanks to Tanga Cement Company Limited, about 70 top athletes from as far as Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya are competing for individual supremacy for the seventh year running in an event that is well coloured with the inclusion of wheelchair tennis.
Nevertheless, reigning champion and towering Rwandese Jean Claude Gasingwa is heading for a repeat of last year when he won easily 6-2 and 6-3 against local top tennis cop Omary Abdallah to set a semi final date against Ugandan David Oringa. The Ugandan had earlier outplayed Kenyan Mohamend Fazal by straight sets.
Returning East African heavy weight Evelyn Otura killed local ascendancy when she submerged hard hitting Mkunde Iddi by 2-1 sets in probably the most competitive run of the tournament as more upsets continued to riddle the ladies category. However, the more superior Otura had to play with class in the third set to stop the local teenager who had stolen into the second set with a convincing 6-3 before the Kenyan's powerful retaliation settled matters at 6-2, 3-6 and 6-0.
Surprisingly, Mkunde's unexpected elimination followed the miserable fall of slow footed Rehema Athumani, who ran into the inviting hands of visiting Rwandese second seeded lady player Megan Ingabire. Whether the Rwandese beats her semis opponent Kenyan Carolyn Oduor is a wait and see.
But the greatest match of all pits the ladies defending champion and Kenyan teenager Shufaa Changawa whose remarkable game looks well placed to unseat her compatriot Otura who is twice the former's age.