Inconsistency is part of the development path for most youngsters breaking through in sport. Tennis ace Duncan Mugabe hasn’t been any different. But being able to bounce back from difficulty is the mark of a true champion.
Last year, Mugabe was beaten by Jean Claude Gasigwa at the semi-final stage of the Uganda Open. Fast forward 12 months later and he’s became the first Ugandan since Renato Sebbi in 1997 to win the Open; a sign that he has come of age.
“Like I told you a few months ago, I’m determined to make strides in tennis. I want to make history and be the first Ugandan to play at the Grand Slam. I know it seems a big dream but it’s through effort that I will make that step,” said a sweaty Mugabe after beating Dennis Ochieng of Kenya 6-3, 6-3 in the final last Saturday.
As if to prove his true climb, Mugabe didn’t drop a single set in the one week tournament, a feat that prompted John Oduke, a former national player to say; “it’s quite evident that Mugabe has improved physically.
He’s strong, athletic and quite resilient. He is also very solid in the rally; never giving up even when he is under pressure. That shows that he’s getting stronger mentally too.”
Mugabe says in response, “I was saddened by the failure last year. So many people criticized me that I couldn’t win a major title at home. That kept haunting me. So, I said to myself that I had to get the monkey off my back.
I stepped up my training since that time and it has paid off. I hope to add more when I go to the USA in a couple of week’s time.”
The improvement in Mugabe’s game was very evident; his back-hand was very proficient in winning him points. And his reaction plus vision to see open spaces in which to place the ball far from his opponent was executed with ruthless brilliance.
But as one tennis fan pointed out, Mugabe still has major flaws, especially his first serve that denied him several opportunities to hammer in aces. Perhaps he was lucky not to meet Gasigwa, who fell in the semis after getting a back injury.
In fact, Gasigwa had few praises for Mugabe; “even Mugabe knows that he can’t boast about his victory when he hasn’t beaten me. Well, he’s a good player but not better than me. I will beat him any day.
So, next year, I’m coming back to prove to him and all that I’m still the best around,” said an arrogantly smiling Gasigwa as he limped away for treatment.
It’s unlikely that Mugabe will take Gasigwa’s mind-games seriously after he and Robert Buyinza beat Gasigwa and Francis Rogoi in the men’s doubles final. Like Gasigwa, Mugabe is cocky too.
In the doubles semi-final, a fan by the periemeter screamed: come on Duncan after an unforced error. In return, Mugabe walked to the periemeter and asked the fan as he stretched out his racket, “Can I hand you the racket and you play instead?” This lad has attitude of people that believe in themselves surely.