*Faces Team Tombim next weekend in Lagos
Badminton’s former African numero uno, Ola Fagbemi, was one of the fans at the NCC two-day semi-final where Team Offikwu did the upset of the Team Civil Defence to pick the ticket to the final. He described the outcome as “exemplary nerve, deep experience and grim concentration was what made the difference.”
A brave feat from Sylvester Emmanuel and Aanu Aiyegbusi in the decisive mixed doubles match of the second semi-finals of the NCC Tennis League Cup, gave debutant Team Offikwu a dream upset win on Sunday in Abuja against a star-studded Civil Defence team, runners-up of the maiden edition last year. The previous day’s proceedings ended 2-2 on the major.
When Abdulmumuni Babalola beat Sylvester Emmanuel 6-3, 7-6 in the first singles and Shehu Lawal followed with a 7-6, 6-2 win over Emmanuel Idoko, many tennis fans assumed the tie was won and lost.
Team Offikwu had other ideas and picked the next two points they were least expected to win. Aiyegbusi put up a virtuoso performance to beat national champion, Christie Agugbom, who had never lost a match in the league, 7-5, 6-0 and the pair of Albert Bicom and Emmanuel recovered from a set down to upset current national doubles champions, Lawal and Babalola 4-6, 6-3, 10-6 in the men’s doubles to even score at 2-2.
Babalola beat Idoko 7-6, 6-4 while Emmanuel beat Shehu Lawal 6-1, 6-3 to level 3-3 to have the mixed doubles as the decisive match.
“This was the most tension packed, most exciting match I have seen in Nigeria and the second worldwide in my whole life. The other was the Australian Open quarterfinal between Younis Aynaoui of Morocco and Andy Roddick of the USA many years ago which lasted over five hours with the final set ending 16-14 or so,” said Godwin Kienka, director of the International Tennis Academy which coordinates the tennis league.
The final will be played nest weekend in Lagos between Team Offikwu and Team Tombim. The winner goes home with N7million and the loser of the day tags back with N5million. Fans of tennis should be in for a good time with the expected quality of fireworks. Team Tombim, last year’s NCC League winners, based in Abuja which had already qualified for the finals by defeating Team FCT 6-1 in the first semi-finals played in Enugu last week.