Ahead of the Rainoil Open Tennis Championships, Joseph Imeh, who’s Nigeria’s leading tennis player, has said losing in finals doesn’t leave him overwhelmed.
The Akwa-Ibom native has been a force to reckon with in national tournaments within Nigeria. However, time and again, his nerves have betrayed him at the crucial moments.
Imeh has made the finals of five of the six previous national tournaments he has played in, dating back to February, 2017 and has won only one — the Rainoil/Ikoyi 1938 Masters in February last year. Since then, he has failed to come out on top in the other finals he’s competed in.
Last year, in the CBN Open final, he lost to Abdulmumin Babalola, and then came up short against Thomas Otu in the final of the Dala Hard Court Championships in Kano. Also, in the final of the inaugural edition of the Rainoil Open, he was edged by Henry Atseye. This year, we witnessed another upset as he lost to Sylvester Emmanuel in the final of the Vemp Open in straight sets, after famously storming to a 5-2 lead in the opening set.
Speaking to TennisNG, he said, “It [losing in those finals] doesn’t affect my mindset. Honestly, it doesn’t,” the 21-year-old hammered. “What is really wrong about that is kind of complicated,” he said, refusing to go into further details.
He, however, assured that certain measures have been put in place to snap the losing streak.
“I believe with the kind of training I’ve had these past months, I should be able to adjust when it comes to finals,” he said.
As Nigeria’s No.1 and given his past records, Imeh will head into the Rainoil Open as a favourite for the title. The 21-year-old also has his position at the top of the NTF rankings threatened by Sylvester Emmanuel, who is 5 points shy of the top spot and who is also among the title favourites, having picked up back-to-back national titles this year. But Imeh insists he is under no pressure and is in a right frame of mind ahead of the tournament.
“Right now, I’m feeling really good,” the 21-year-old said. “I am in my top form and it’s due to the training I’ve had.
“I am not under any pressure to deliver. That feeling [of being a tournament favourite] gives me more courage. The feeling of being the top player in the competition gives me the feeling that I would win the competition.”
The Rainoil Open Tennis Championship will serve off on Monday, 12 November to 17 November and boasts a total prize-money of N5.1 million.