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2018 Rainoil Open semifinal preview: Atseye seeks to stay on course as Imeh takes on Uche Oparaoji

The men’s side of the 2018 Rainoil Open has shaped up rather nicely and we are in for blockbuster showdowns.

Defending champion, Henry Atseye will square off with Sylvester Emmanuel in one semifinal, and top seed, Joseph Imeh will face the dangerous Uche Oparaoji in the other.

What’s more? The NTF number one ranking is also on the line, with Sylvester Emmanuel hot on Imeh’s heels as he’s just five points shy of the top spot which Imeh occupies. It could go down to the final day, should both men make it to the final, or could be decided today, should Emmanuel better Imeh’s result.

Atseye will face his toughest test yet in Sylvester Emmanuel. Both men have been playing impressively, with Atseye doing well to negotiate past a difficult section of the draw so far and has now come within a match of back-to-back finals at this event. Atseye’s bid to retain his title almost crashed in the quarterfinals against Abdulmumin Babalola, but the 29-year-old held on to save match points more than once in the second set to force a decider, which he took with incredible aplomb.

With obviously little time to rest and then the possibilities of fatigue, can Atseye do just enough to get past Emmanuel, who’s chasing his third straight national title this year?

Emmanuel, 20, has yet to drop a set so far, dispatching opponents with relative ease. He whistled past Ikechukwu Iloputa 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals and has some momentum after the formidable play. And unlike Atseye, who spent more time on court and required medical attentions, Emmanuel must be feeling fresh, too.

Will the 20-year-old, who’s picked up titles at the CBN Open and Vemp Open this year, advance to yet another final, or will Atseye regroup just in time to sack the 20-year-old and stay on course?

In the other semifinals, Joseph Imeh, who was locked in an epic three-set battle with Emmanuel Idoko in the quarterfinals on Thursday, will hope to have just enough in his tank to take on the lefty whiz that is Uche Oparaoji.

While Imeh has, unsurprisingly, ticked through to the semis, Oparaoji has also done well to advance. He defeated Opeyemi Odeyemi and Ajang Sylvanus in straight sets in the first and second rounds, respectively, before coming back from a set down to beat Emmanuel Sunday 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the third round. He then posted a masterclass against Albert Bikom in the quarterfinals, requiring just a break of serve to take the first set and then rolling through the second to seal a 6-3, 6-1 victory.

Can Oparaoji cause an upset by beating Imeh, or will the top seed, do just enough to advance to his second consecutive national final?

ORDER OF PLAY

Centre Court 

  • Joseph Imeh vs Uche Oparaoji – 10:00am
  • Henry Atseye vs Sylvester Emmanuel – Not before 11:30am
  • Men’s Doubles final – Joseph Imeh and Christian Paul vs Albert Bikom and Abdulmumin Babalola

Court 4

  • Sarah Adegoke vs Christie Agugbom – 10:00am
  • Blessing Samuel vs Aanu Aiyegbusi – Not before 11:30am
  • Women’s Doubles final – Blessing Samuel and Christie Agugbom vs Where Fortune and Stella Udokwelu
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