Rwandan tennis players started their Group 3 Africa Davis Cup tournament campaign on a disappointing note after losing 3-0 to East African rivals Kenya in their opener of Group B at the Smash Sporting Club in Cairo, Egypt on Wednesday.
Etienne Niyigena and Bertin Karenzi both lost their opening matches against Kenyans Ismael Changawa and Albert Njogu respectively in singles while Joshua Muhire and Joseph Mfashingabo were also beaten by Kenyan duo Kevin Cheruiyot and Ibrahim Kibet in doubles.
Rwanda qualified for the third round after finishing second at the 2019 Davis Cup Africa Zone Group IV Tennis Championships in Congo Brazzaville in June.
However, their frustrating start to the tournament against Kenya shows that they still have a lot of work to do.
Davis Cup debutant Niyigena, 26, made a tentative start on the pitch as he struggled to stave off the threat from Njongu who comfortably beat him 6-1, 6-1 to get a winning start.
Niyigena, who traveled with his teammates to Egypt on a mission to win the Davis Cup, proved not ready to face Kenya’s strong serves and his speed on the pitch as he reigned supreme in all his matches in both sets.
In the second match, Ismael Changawa, currently ranked 1893 in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) singles rankings, swept 19-year-old Bertin Karenzi with back-to-back sets 7-6 (4), 6-2 .
Karenzi, who sits 1607th in the ITF junior rankings, proved too hard for the Kenyan star to beat in the opening set, tying every game with ease, forcing them into a tie-break that saw the Kenyan make an effort. extra to earn four points in the first game to break the tie.
In the doubles match, Cheruiyot and Kibet beat Muhire and Mfashingabo in straight sets of 6-4, 6-2 to complete the sweep.
The Kenyan duo struggled in the first four games of the first set with their serves, but picked up in the last two to finish first. In the second set, Cheruiyot and Kibet overtook Muhire and Mfashingabo, who had dominated the first two games of the set.
Rwanda are placed in Group B alongside Kenya, Ghana and Mozambique in the seven-team competition while hosts Egypt find themselves in three-team Group A alongside Algeria and Benin after the withdrawal of Madagascar from the competition.
The top two teams at the end of the round robin format will advance to the semi-finals, with the winner of Group A facing second in Group B and the winner of Group B facing second in Group A.
The two finalists will advance to the 2022 World Group II qualifiers while the two teams finishing third in their group will participate in a relegation play-off, with the beaten team joining the team finishing fourth in African Group IV in 2022.