Austria’s Maximilian Neuchrist defeated Joao Menezes in a sensational final match to win the Dayak Tennis Championship in Abuja on Saturday.
It was billed to be a crunch clash; it very well surpassed that!
Neuchrist hadn’t won a title this year. Menezes, on the hand, was bidding to lift back-to-back titles in Abuja, and was seemingly the favourite considering the level of tennis he’d put up for a fortnight in the country’s capital city.
However, when Neuchrist held serve to take a 5-2 lead in the first set, it all began to seem a distant memory. And for the first time in two weeks, it seemed as though Menezes, the Tombim Open champion, looked unsure of himself.
Neuchrist produced some of his best tennis to claim the first set 6-3. In the second, Menezes gathered himself and thankfully, much to amusement of the spectators, found his way back in to claim the set 7-6(5), sending the match into a deciding third set.
Forehand after forehand; power and precision on display, the Austrian tore into the 22-year-old Brazilian to seal the third set, claiming a 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 victory in 2 hours and 25 minutes of riveting tennis.
It was there to see, just how much this meant to the Austrian, as he dropped to his knees and collapsed face down with earsplitting ovations enveloping the Centre Court.
“It was an emotional ending for me. And it was amazing,” Neuchrist, 26, said during the trophy presentation. “In the second set I stepped back a little bit, but in the third set, I recovered. And I was able to break him to win.”
For Menezes, his hopes of becoming the first player since Matija Pecotic in 2015 to lift back-to-back ITF Futures titles in Abuja were dashed. He however, acknowledged it was an impressive run.
“It’s been an incredible two weeks.. I tried my best to win but Neuchrist was the better player,” Menezes said.
Speaking after the completion of the weeklong tournament, the sponsor of the Dayak Tennis Championship, who’s also the President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, Engr. Dayo Akindoju, lauded the quality of tennis that was on display and also, the standard of the tournament.
“The tournament was very good. We just watched the final that ended in the third set… It was a well competed match. And the standards are very good,” Engr. Akindoju concluded.