US based Alicia Owegi is among the high profile players who will be out for glory in the prestigious Billie Jean King Cup Africa Group III tennis tournament at the Nairobi Club from Monday next week.
Owegi says the competition will be tougher but she will rely on her previous experience in the tournament to pull out good results.
The Alabama-based biology student has contested in the tournament twice and this has given her insights on what to focus on during the global showpiece.
“From my previous stints, I can say I’m much more ready for the tournament this season,” Owegi told Standard Sports.
Her strategy will be to fight for points as this she believes will take care of the good results she will be out for.
“I’m promising to give my all in the tournament by playing some good tennis. I hope to entertain my fans,” Owegi said.
The fact that Owegi is on a full tennis scholarship in America has made her ready for the tournament as she always ups her practices daily.
Owegi is glad that the course she is taking is so balanced to an extent that she has adequate time to train and attend competitions, and this has improved her game.
“I have a very flexible schedule, I attend classes in the morning and have the all afternoon for myself to play tennis. This makes me feel ready for this tournament, both physically and mentally. I will be out to do my best,” she stated.
And what does it feel to play in front of home crowd for Owegi?
Owegi predicts it will be thrilling and exciting.
“I’m grateful that I will get to invite my family who will join other Kenyans to watch me. This gives me motivation to play even my best tennis. I’ll to do it even better now that a lot of people will be coming to watch me, it’s just exciting," she said.
Owegi also believes playing at home will give her advantage over her international rivals who will compete in the tournament. At home, she is assured of moral support from fans and her family.
“I’m also quite familiar with the Nairobi Club. I played so much tennis here before I left for America. I know the courts very well, I know how they play,” the 19-year-old underlined.
Owegi insists playing on clay at the Nairobi Club will be another added advantage for her as she is used to that kind of surface. To her, clay will improve her rallies and grinds which will make her game better.
“I’m just waiting to see what kind of game my opponents will bring out,” she said.
And what does she think of the six-man squad that Tennis Kenya has lined up for the tournament?
Owegis says this is the best ever women’s side ever assembled by the federation as the players literally know each other.
“It’s a closely knighted team; we have grown up together, we have played each other for the longest period possible. We are like sisters, and that tells you how close we are," she underscored.
“I’m happy that I’m part of this team where we encourage and motivate each other. I believe we will have so much fun in this tournament."
What does she feel Kenya can borrow from the US that has helped her to perfect her game?
Owegi says facilities are the key ingredients for the sport. Without better equipment Kenya will continue to languish behind in the sport.
“In America, I’m exposed to good gyms, adequate courts, top trainers and state of the art equipment. Once a country has these sorted then it is good to go," she said.
“In Kenya we are a bit struggling but I’m happy that we are improving the courts at Nairobi Club and Parklands Sports Club. Before that, we didn’t have very good courts, sometimes there are no rackets or the strings or the shoes."
She continued: “I think better equipment in America has helped my game to grow. There are plenty of competitions there with so many players and this has enabled me to play more tournaments for self-improvements."
While advising upcoming players in the sport, Owegi said: “This road is too long, never give up, it’s not over until it’s over.
“In tennis, there is always another point, another set, another game, so there is always another opportunity to redeem yourself.
“It’s a game of mistake, whoever makes more loses, you are guaranteed to make mistakes but what you do with them impact how you perform, so just keep fighting.”