The NCC Tennis League Blue Group match in Port Harcourt over the weekend witnessed a comeback of epic proportions comparable to the ‘Dammam Miracle’ the flying Eagles (U-20) pulled off at the 1989 FIFA World Cup in Saudi Arabia recovering from 0-4 to win a quarterfinal match against Russia.
In the very crucial round robin tie between Team Kalotari and Team Muller of Lagos, Blessing Samuel clawed back from being 2-6, 0-5 down to prevail against Team Muller’s Ronke Akingbade 2-6, 7-6, 6-3.
The match which saw a catalogue of errors and winners in the very dramatic second set will live in the memories of the spectators as set points changed hands at least 10 times before Samuel finally clinched the set. A disappointed and despondent Akingbade could not recover and lost the final set handily.
The victory which had Team Kalotari lead 2-1 on the opening day could not save the Port Harcourt team as an angry Team Muller came on the second day to sweep the reverse singles and the men’s doubles to clinch the tie and, effectively, a semifinal spot.
On the opening Saturday, Joseph Imeh who is in the form of his life, defeated Christian Paul 6-2- 4-6, 6-3 while Emmanuel Sunday beat Emmanuel idoko 6-4, 6-4 in the men’s singles.
Imeh thrashed Sunday 6-2, 6-0 and paired Mohammed Mohammed to win the men’s doubles against Sunday and Paul 7-5, 6-3. Idoko made up for his first singles loss by overcoming an out of sorts Paul 7-5, 6-3 in the second reverse singles.
Team Kalotari mixed doubles team of Samuel and Ikechukwu Iloputa consoled their fans by winning the mixed doubles against Mohammed and Akingbade 6-4, 6-1.
The two other ties in Ilorin and Lagos were not as eventful as Team Optiweb lost only one match against visiting Team Oluyole of Ibadan and Team Civil Defence kept a clean slate in their match against the VGC Lions in Lagos
Mike Oparaoji of Team Optiweb started the victory run by beating Adewale Sampson 6-1, 6-7, 6-1 but Okechukwu Michael of the Ibadan team checked the train by also overcoming Isaac Emeruwa in three sets 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
That was the only match the Ilorin based team conceded as Oluchi Ozurumba, with her deceptive size, defeated Colleen Orji 6-4, 6-3 and the men’s doubles pair of Kareem Badmus and Henry John rounded off the opening day with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Kunle Bamidele and Ganiyu Salami.
In the reverse singles, Uche Oparaoji defeated Ismaila Adesina 6-1, 6-4: Badmus beat Okechukwu Michael 6-1, 6-2 and the mixed doubles pair of John and Ozurumba ended the tie by beating Wasiu Ibrahim and Orji 6-2, 6-3.
At the elite VGC Club at the Victoria Garden City in Lekki – Lagos, the VGC Lions could not breach the defence of the Civil Defence team which had two former national men’s singles champions and the current women’s champion in their fold and lost 0-7.
Clifford Enosoregbe proved too strong for 2014 national junior champion Martins Abamu whom he beat 6-3, 6-2 in the first match; Stanley Madueke followed with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Aniekan Pius and national champion, Christie Agugbom finished off the day’s singles matches by defeating Lovette Donatus 6-4, 6-4. The doubles pair of Abdulmumuni Babalola and Michael Michael also proved too strong for VGC Lions’ Abamu brothers – George and Martins – who were beaten 6-3, 6-3.
In the reverse singles matches, Enosoregbe beat Onyeka Mbanu 6-2, 6-2; Madueke beat Martins Abamu 6-3, 6-2 and the mixed doubles pair of Babalola and Agugbom survived a late upset bid by VGC Lions’ pair of Donatus and Martins Abamu to serve home 6-0, 7-6.
The impact of the NCC Tennis League was well summed up this weekend by Boma Iyaye, the Rivers State Commissioner for Sports who said in his remarks at the Port Harcourt Club venue – “Some of us who like to go to Lagos to watch good tennis at the Governor’s Cup would have no need to travel again as the standard we saw here is equal to what we see at the Grand Slams. Also this league is really engaging and empowering our youth because the young boys and girls you see here playing or watching can not be involved in crimes because their time is well spent. Taking this kind of tennis to 12 cities with the huge prize monies is wonderful.”
Adding, “I therefor commend the NCC for this historic investment in our youth and the organisers for a wonderful job.”