Vishwa Shah preparing for a return durin

Rising Star Field’s junior starlet Shah targets tennis titles

09/06/21 Nairobi, Kenya

Her poise, eloquence and maturity beyond her years have won many admirers in recent months. And you really don't need to look too far to see where she has got it from. "In terms of putting her mind on a goal, and then being really clear about what she needs to do to give herself the best chance of achieving it, there is no-one better than Vishwa Shah."

She is becoming a hot ticket in 2021 at least that's what it looks like from outside. She tells it slightly differently though. "It's cool to have a high ranking, but that´s not my goal. To be No. 1 would be cool, don´t get me wrong. But my goal is to win titles," Shah said during a practice session recently. "I´m sure with titles, a No. 1 ranking would come, but it´s not something that I focus on. My goal is just to win titles - and all the numbers and all that will come with that."

Shah, who had a breakthrough 2020 that saw her reach the second round of the Kenya Lawn Tennis Association’s (KLTA) Junior Challenge Series 1, has been training under the guidance of Coach Ibrahim Yego in preparation for the new season.

When she’s at her destructive best, such as during the Junior Challenge Series, she dispatched opponents with ease 7-6, 6-4 against Nyawira Olembo and 6-2, 6-2, against Nicole Nino to finish sixth overall at the back end of 2020 coupled with a double title crown at the Oshwal Centre Junior Under-14 and Under-16 championships in March this year.

Still just 13, Shah is one of the youngest girls to make it in the KLTA's top 18 female player rankings with 407 points. And she will be seeded at the next KLTA’s tournament when action resumes in June in Nairobi.

She is part of a group of four elite female tennis players at Star Field Academy who are paying special attention to their training regime that allows them up to six sessions per week – Sunday being the exception as they try to rise to the top and join youngsters such as Shakira Varese and Faith Urasa, both of whom have already won a major local title as teens in recent months.

"She's playing great, she's young, she has energy," Coach Yego said. "She has a lot of ingredients to become a big star of this sport."

Shah says she is learning to embrace the huge expectations she carries on her shoulders and will be playing with freedom at the next KLTA event.

"I think I have been playing a lot freer, and I think you can see it while I'm on the court," Shah, told academy coaches.

"That's how I'm going to go into these upcoming tournaments. I just feel like even now instead of stressing, when the score is a little bit tough, I think I'm really just going to enjoy the challenge and enjoy the moment.

"You know, I talked to a couple of players who are older in past events, and at the end of the day they just always say the same thing, that the thing they regret the most is not enjoying it while they are doing it. That's something that I don't want to take for granted."

"Some people, they feel like they have to put a mask on or something to portray themselves, but I'm just happy that I'm comfortable with being myself and my training colleagues at the academy kind of like that."