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Stage set for Emmanuel-Babalola rematch in CBN Tennis Open final



Defending champion Sylvester Emmanuel beat Thomas Otu while six-time winner, Abdulmumin Babalola outclassed second seed Joseph Imeh in the semi-finals on Friday to set up a rematch final at the 2019 CBN Tennis Open Championship.

Emmanuel, 21, saw off 2015 winner Otu, whose performance in the game was below expectation, 6-4 6-1.

Otu started the first set as though he was a man on a mission to stop Emmanuel but once the favourite managed to take the first set, there was no doubt as to whom victory belonged.

Babalola, on the other hand, had a more grueling game, as he drew inner strength to overturn Imeh’s dominance and won 3-6 7-6 6-4.

The game looked like Imeh’s in the first set and he was coasting home in the second, but he threw away his lead and allowed Babalola take the set 7-6.

That slip proved costly as an experienced Babalola capitalised on Imeh’s frustration and won the game in 2hour 40mins.

Babalola now has the chance to revenge the 2018 edition of the tournament, when Emmanuel beat him to win the trophy.

A seventh title for Babalola would see him equal the tournament’s all-time record.

But Emmanuel told News Agency of Nigeria after the game that he was aware of his opponent’s weaknesses as much as his abilities.

“I am happy that I have the opportunity to defend my title. Otu is a great player and he defeated me the last time we met in Lagos.

“But today’s game was easier than expected. Maybe he had a bad day. The final will be different, I am sure.

“I’ve been playing Babalola for some time now and I know I have to draw up a strategy if I want to carry the day.

“I know his ability and of course, he has his weaknesses,” Emmanuel said.

Babalola, however, told NAN that he would be out for his pound of flesh in the final on Saturday.

“The semifinal game against Imeh was a great one, but today was a matter of survival of the fittest.

“The difference today was that I took my chances when the opportunity came. He could have easily defeated me.

“Hopefully, things will work my way in the final against Emmanuel. It is like a return match which you would want to win if you were the loser the last time,” he said.

The men’s and women’s singles finals of the CBN Senior Tennis Open Championship will be played on Saturday at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.