28 February 2018

Kenyans Hope to Stop Strong Egyptian Rivals

Kenya's representatives Sejal Thakkar and Brian Mutua are ready to take on Africa's big wigs when the ITTF Continental Cup serves off on Thursday at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

The three-day Continental Cup competition will double up for the 2019 World Table Tennis Championships qualifiers.

The 42-year-old Thakkar, who is competing in her fourth World Table Tennis Championships qualifiers, said even though she has experience, there is more room for improvement as she expects a tough battle.

"I might be having some exposure but the game is dynamic hence the need to correct some technical issues to match up our rivals," said Thakkar.

"I need to tighten on my spin and reflex besides going for shorter strokes."

Thakkar reckons that it won't be easy for her since her rivals are top class professional players, who have experience and are much faster than her.

"But I am going into the battle with a positive mind. I shall give my best as usual and I call on Kenyans to come and cheer us up," said Thakkar adding that she has met most of her rivals before and they know each other very well.

Among the players Thakkar, who is 15th seeded, is set to meet are top seeded Dina Meshref and third seeded Farah Abdel-Aziz from Egypt and Nigerian Olufunke Oshonaike, who is second seeded.

Other players to watch out for are fourth seeded Offiong Edem from Nigerian, Algerian Lynda Loghraibi (5) and Safa Saidani (6) from Tunisia.

"It's always nice to learn and it's never too let learn something new from them considering that they are professionals and tour more than us," said Thakkar, adding that they have been able to learn more tricks from their Swede coach Jan Berner, who has been in the country for one week.

"He has been able to give us targets and some mode of play that is different from the local coaches," noted Thakkar who has represented Kenya for many year.

SECOND TIME

The mother of two has been to the Commonwealth Games twice in 1998 (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) and 2014 (Glasgow, Scotland).

Mutua, 19, will be representing Kenya for the second time, having earned his maiden international capping at the Mauritius competition, said despite his inexperience, he is going put his best serve forward and enjoy the tournament.

"I know the kind of challenge I face but I must produce my best too," said Mutua, who has been working on his footwork and speed besides his serves.

"My short and long serves have improved but I need to refine further on my forehand and back top spins."

Mutua said they have learnt a lot under Berner and they hope to implement the new strategies. "I have enjoyed every bit of his training and I have improved with every session," said Mutua, who took up the game in 2012.

Mutua is up against the likes of top seeded Assar Omar from Egypt, who is currently the highest ranked Africa player in the world in 16th place.

Also is focus is second seeded Nigerian Aruna Quadri, who is placed 20th in the world, third seeded Ahmed Saleh from Egypt, Nigerian Segun Toriola (4), Sami Kherouf (5) from Algeria and Tunisian Thameur Mamia (6).

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