Abdulmumin Babalola and youngster Sylvester Emmanuel face off in a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Senior Open Tennis Championship men’s singles final at the tennis section of the National Stadium, Abuja on Saturday afternoon.
Both players have been blazing in the tournament so far, and deserve to be where they are today; having showed a lot of promise and fight in the matches leading to the final which either of them would be making history with, whichever way the result swings.
Babalola will want to win the tournament back to back for the first time and cement his place as one of the best players of the competition while Sylvester will want to win it for the very first time, to prove his status as Nigeria’s true champion.
But Nigerian Tennis Live believes the 20-year-old star player stands a better chance against the man fondly referred to as Monaco by his friends and close associates.
Here are four reasons Sylvester may be able to pull up a victory in this afternoon’s clash.
|Sylvester Emmanuel will appear fired up to win the elusive CBN Open tournament for the first time ever. Photo: Ewaoche Ameh.|
Sylvester defeated tougher opponents to reach the finals
It is pardonable to say that the opposition faced by Babalola, coming into this final, were not as tough and hardened as those his opponent faced to make a historic final.
En route to reaching the final, Sylvester was responsible for the loss of two former national champions; Henry Atseye and Clifford Enosoregbe, dumped out Nigeria’s number one player (Joseph Imeh) and overcame a scare in his match against Musa Bala. In all, it was not particularly smooth for the youngster, but he pulled through.
The same cannot be said of Monaco, however, as he had it relatively smooth; beating players like Michael Michael, Sunday Emmanuel and Uche Oparaoji to reach the final.
Sylvester does not lose in a final
Even though he has not played in too many national finals, Sylvester rarely loses in finals of competitions he participates in.
He almost single-handedly got his Team, Offikwu to the final play offs of the NCC League two years ago, and was in beast mode when they played the final round of the matches in Lagos.
Sylvester puts up a we die here attitude on court whenever he plays in the final of a major competition and rarely suffers any kind of defeat when he wriggles his way to the final of any tournament.
The most recent loss in a final for the youngster was at the 2017 Dayak Open, an ITF pro circuit tournament in Abuja, where he partnered French-born Nigerian Calvin Hemery to lose the final of the doubles event.
Sylvester has won on more difficult grounds
No Nigerian has won more matches in a difficult situation than Sylvester in recent weeks; this has no doubt helped with his fitness and brutality in his matches.
Of all the Nigerians who went to Kenya for the Davis Cup, he came back with a better win ratio in all the matches played at the tournament. He won three singles matches (against Rwanda, Cameroon and Namibia) on a pretty difficult surface, a feat which makes him tougher.
If victory for him on clay was not too difficult to come by, running out as a winner in his final encounter against his more experienced opponent – even though he is also playing well – should not totally end in chaos.
Sylvester has never won the CBN Open before
The motivation to win the CBN Open for the first time ever will keep ringing in the head of the former Nigerian number one player.
Since his 2016 Dala Hard Court defeat of Michael Moses, Sylvester has not reached any final of a national competition, let alone win any. And he does not appear like one who would throw such an opportunity away when it presents itself.
Psychologically, he will be more fired up to emerge victorious in this tournament and make up for the troubles that his recent injuries have brought him.
This is the best run of wins and victories he has had since suffering a dip in form occasioned by the surgical operation he went through in 2017 before the commencement of the Governor’s Cup; he seems to have fully recovered.
The match will come up at the Package B of the National Stadium, Abuja, on Saturday afternoon, and spectators will be hoping for a good game of tennis on the day.
Nigerian Tennis Live will keep an eye on the final of this competition and report the outcome to our teeming readers.