Team Offikwu Wednesday in Kaduna snatched the last semifinal place 4- 2 in a hard fought Blue Group round robin decider against Lagos based Team Lead Way.
The last mixed doubles match was mutually conceded by both teams.
Indications that it was going to be a long drawn battle emerged on the opening Tuesday when Albert Bikom of Offikwu, better known as a smart doubles player, edged Moses Igbinovia 6-7, 4-6, 7-6.
Joseph Imeh, the lead player for Lead Way promptly repaid the favour by upsetting Dala Hard Court champion, Sylvester Emmanuel in the second men’s singles 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
|Sylvester Emmanuel recovered in record time to a secure win for his team.|
Then came the women’s singles which proved decisive on the final day. Aanu Aiyegbusi needed 2 hrs 30 mins to overcome Ronke Akingbade 2-6, 5-7, 6-0 to give Team Offikwu a 2-1 lead.
Both debutants split the two men’s singles matches on Wednesday with Joseph Imeh defeating Emmanuel Idoko and Sylvester Emmanuel recovering to defeat Umoru Balami of Lead Way both in straight sets.
With the tie poised at 3-2, the men’s doubles postponed from Tuesday due to bad light and the mixed doubles became very decisive. Team Lead Way’s pair of Joseph Imeh and Mohammed Mohammed went into the men’s doubles determined to keep the tie alive. They almost did.
Team Offikwu’s pair of Sylvester Emmanuel and Bikom after several swings of fortune to both sides and with the final set tiebreak at 8-8 finally held the two points they needed to win the match and the tie 4- 2 to clinch the last semifinal place.
Aiyegbusi whose birthday fell today (Wednesday) took several laps round the court in celebration as her team mates pursued her giving her a massive water bath.
“This is the best birthday present I have ever had.” Aiyegbusi who was happy to have been saved the mixed doubles match said.
“I would have played rubbish in the mixed doubles if they had played because I would still be celebrating. This NCC Tennis League is something else… the tension almost killed me. This is the best thing to happen to Nigerian tennis I swear!” The top 10 national player who went off singing
and dancing said.
Also impressed with the intensity and standard of the match was Hajia Fatima Dalhatu – Gumel, chairperson of the Kaduna State Tennis Association who said she was amazed at the high level of tennis in Nigeria.
“I was at the Dala Hard Court and saw a remarkable improvement in the level of the players. In fact it was the best Dala I have ever watched because upsets started happening from the first round. Now watching this NCC League match I can see why,” the chairperson whose father was an
ardent tennis player said.
Team Offikwu will now meet Team Civil Defence in the second semifinals slated for Saturday December 10 and Sunday December 11 at the Abuja National Stadium Tennis Centre.
The first semifinal will take place at the Enugu Sports Club Saturday December 3 and Sunday December 4 with Nigeria’s tennis great Nduka Odizor attending as special guest.