Last Saturday morning a selected Haileybury mixed squad played against a touring team from Malezi School, Kenya. Both sides played high quality tennis, with Haileybury’s senior mixed team coming out as winners overall. However, the juniors lost to a talented Kenyan side.
The Kenyan children, who were aged 10-15 years old, had been visiting a number of schools throughout the country. There were a number of doubles and mixed doubles matches against the Haileybury team that were played in great spirit and it was clear everyone had a wonderful time. There were also some thrilling singles matches played, including a hard fought encounter between Francis Hunt and one of the Kenyan players. With the score all even at 6 all, Francis took a comfortable lead in the tiebreak but the determination and athleticism of the young Kenyan player was clear and he managed to win 8-6 in the tiebreak.
At the end of the day, a presentation took place and Haileybury gave each of the Kenyan players a tennis tracksuit. We were also presented with t-shirts and bracelets from Kenya.
The Kenyan players were making history as the first from the region to travel on a tennis exchange with schools in the United Kingdom.
This maiden trip, which will be the first of many, was sponsored by Virgin Atlantic and SKAL, and saw the Malezi School team visit and play against the UK’s top tennis schools as part of developing new partnerships between schools in England and Malezi School.
Malezi pupils have topped Kenyan tennis for the past 11 years and most of its former players (like former junior champions Rahab Mbugua, Maurice Wamukowa and Terry and Joab Odera) are studying in the US on tennis scholarships. One of the visitors to the UK, Azisa Butoyi, is the reigning KCB Kenya Open ladies singles champion, while the rest of the team comprises the top players in Kenya.
All the Haileybury pupils thoroughly enjoyed the experience and we hope that a similar match will be played next year. Feedback from the visitors was that their time at Haileybury was the highlight of their UK visit. "We were made to feel so welcome and we loved your School," says coach, Dr Liz Odera.