Africa Under-14 Masters champion Sneha Kotecha on Monday came back from a set down to beat fifth seed Doroteja Joksovic of Serbia and reach the second round of the 2017 International Tennis Federation East African Under-18 Junior Circuit.
The Kenyan won 1-6, 6-0, 7-5 in a thrilling contest that lasted 1hr 35 minutes on centre court at the Nairobi Club in their first round girls’ singles match. An elated Kotecha attributed her resurgence to her fighting spirit and belief from her coach that saw her win on tie-break.
“I think many had written me off after the first set but I was able to shrug it off and concentrate on her weak point and this gave me the ammunition to go all in,” she told Daily Nation Sport.
Kotecha, playing in her second international competition after last week’s Fed Cup Zonal qualifiers, had the worst possible start, winning just one match in a one-sided first set. In hot conditions at the Nairobi club, Kotecha appeared to suffer as her opponent raced to a 4-0 lead in the opening set with the Kenyan struggling in her game.
Joksovic did well with a double break to take the opening set in 26 minutes against the bespectacled Kenyan. However, the Kenyan was to return stronger in the second set and dominantly powered her way past the European who failed to win a single match to the delight of the home fans.
It set the stage for a thrilling final set and it is Kotecha who started brightly as she took a 2-1 lead with Joksovic’s game deteriorating and struggling to get around the court. However, she got herself ‘out of jail’ with an impressive forehead to lead Kotecha 3-2 after the fifth game.
Kotecha however held her nerve to level at 3-3 in the next game after an excellent backhand left her opponent rooted at the net. The pair exchanged leads over the subsequent games to stand at 5-5 forcing the match to head to tie-break.
The Kenyan held out to power through and reach Tuesday’s round of 32. It was however, the end of the road for home player Faith Nyabera, who went down 2-6, 1-6 to second seed Olivia Elliot of Great Britain in another first round girls’ singles match.
In the boys’ matches, Kenya’s Keean Shah lost 4-6, 2-6 to Italy’s Francesco Denicoloi while Rwandese Ernest Habiyamere beat Poland’s Tomasz Frankowski 6-4 6-0.
The first leg of the three-legged competition has attracted players from 32 countries from around the world.