Joseph Imeh is arguably one of the best tennis players in Nigeria right now, not many tennis followers in the country will dispute this fact.
He rose to prominence in the junior cadre of tennis under the tutelage of Coach Abel Ubiebi and has not looked back ever since, especially since his racket-breaking incident at the Ekiti All Nigeria Tennis Open in 2014.
Imeh has since gone to play ITF Futures in several parts of Africa, and in Nigeria, defeating top seeds in the process as well as raking in valuable ITF points.
|Joseph Imeh made it to the final of the Rainoil Clay Court Championship but lost to Henry Atseye.|
The 2017 Nigerian tennis season presented Imeh as arguably Nigeria’s most outstanding player. He led his team to the finals of the NCC League without dropping a set, but lost to eventual winners, Civil Defence – when it mattered most.
In 2017 alone, Imeh played in the final of the CBN Open and lost to Abdulmumin Babalola; he played against Thomas Otu at the Dala Hard Court tournament final, and also lost.
The inaugural clay court tournament sponsored by Rainoil also presented Imeh with the opportunity to win a major national tournament in 2017, but having neared the touchline, he faltered against former champion, Henry Atseye, while still ending the year as Nigeria’s number one player.
Even though he mentioned during the finals of the NCC League in Lagos that he just felt he had to work more on his game, there were indications that 2018 would be his year, so everyone became expectant.
|Imeh was adjudged the best player of the NCC Tennis League having led his young side to the final of the competition.|
At the beginning of year 2018, Imeh was one of Nigeria’s better players at the Davis Cup tournament, even though Nigeria could not gain promotion, and returned to the country in time to participate in the 40th edition of the CBN Open, but was dumped out by Sylvester Emmanuel in the quarter final.
The recently concluded Vemp Open Tennis Championship presented Imeh with another opportunity to win his first national tournament in as many attempts.
He did not drop a single set all week, and made it to the final. The young player was already coasting with a 5-2 lead, but Sylvester shocked him by taking five games on a bounce. The Benue-born player ended up winning in two straight sets of 7-5, 6-4 to condemn Imeh to yet another defeat in the final of a major national tournament.
With these developments which seem surreal in the Nigerian tennis circuit, tennis followers seem to be worried that something has to be done about this talented young man who has – regardless of all his challenges – remained his ever smiling self and remained at the apex of the rankings.
Two (or three) more national tournaments to the end of 2018, should Nigerian tennis followers, administrators and other observers be worried about Imeh’s inability to win a tournament after all his efforts at clinching the coveted prize?