Dala Hard Court: Samuel gets her revenge, Imeh outlasts Shehu

Joseph Imeh moved into the semi-finals of the Dala Hard Court Tennis Championship in Kano after a hard-fought victory over Lawal Shehu on Thursday.

Arguably the best player in the country at the moment, Imeh has come through a very difficult section of the draw to reach the last four, taking out former national champions, Henry Atseye and Clifford Enosoregbe in straight sets on his way to the quarter finals. Shehu had also impressed in the earlier rounds, dismissing Hassan Jibrin and Amos Michael without dropping a set, and it was the veteran who made the faster start on Thursday, taking the opening set 6-4.

However, that stung Imeh into action, as the 20-year-old battled back in style to complete a 4-6 6-1 6-3 victory, and take his place in the last four.

The Team Muller spearhead will take on qualifier, Uche Oparaoji in Friday’s semi-finals. Oparaoji continued his superb tournament with an outstanding 7-5 5-7 6-3 victory over Christian Paul.

In the top half of the draw, Thomas Otu advanced to the semi-finals with a 6-3 7-6 victory over Ikechukwu Iloputa. Otu made a slow start to the tournament, dropping the opening set to Martins Abamu in the first round, and while he hasn’t quite been at his best all week, he has done enough to progress into the semi-finals, where he will play the in-form Emmanuel Idoko.

It’s a re-match of last weekend’s NCC Tennis Cup meeting, when Idoko, playing for Team Muller, scored a surprisingly one-sided 6-2 6-2 victory over Ndoma-Egba’s Otu. Idoko has carried that form into Kano, ousting Aliyu Idris, Godsgift Timibra and Abdulmumini Babalola without dropping a set.

Idoko and Otu open Friday’s play on Court Gumel at 10:00am Nigerian time, while the second men’s singles’ semi-final between Imeh and Oparaoji is scheduled to begin on the same court at around 3:30pm.

In the women’s draw, Blessing Samuel booked her spot in the final with a 3-6 6-3 6-1 victory over last year’s winner Christie Agugbom. It was sweet revenge for the 26-year-old Samuel, who was narrowly edged out in a third set tie break by Agugbom in the 2016 final.

Standing between Samuel and the 2017 Dala title is Sarah Adegoke, who blew away Patience Onebamhoin 6-2 6-1 in the other women’s semi-final. Adegoke has been very impressive this week, taking down Oyinlomo Quadre and Aanu Aiyegbusi (who retired hurt), before her latest win over Onebamhoin.

Can the 20-year-old complete a wonderful week with victory over Samuel, or will last year’s beaten finalist, Samuel go one better this time around?

The women’s final is scheduled to start at around 2:00pm Nigerian time on Friday..

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