Competitions

Perrin-Khazaniuk set to resume Lagos rivalry

It is said that rivalries are borne out of certain factors. It could be longevity. Could be contrasting personalities or style. It could be the epic nature of their matches. For Switzerland’s Conny Perrin and Denis Khazaniuk of Israel, the latter is the case, and it has made the rivalry between these two women quite distinctive and intriguing.

Conny Perrin and Deniz Khazaniuk have played each other just twice, with a win apiece. Both matches have come in the final of the Lagos Open in Onikan, and it is the nature of both encounters that has made it one to be talked about.

With this year’s Lagos Open set to serve off this weekend, we take a look at arguably the most intriguing affair that lit up the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club.

In October 2017, and in only her second time at the Lagos Open, Israel’s Khazaniuk wormed her way out of a tricky draw to reach the final of the first leg of the women’s singles. She would go on to face Conny Perrin, who was already a back-to-back champion – 2015 & 2016 – in Lagos.

Having surrendered just one set that week, Perrin entered the match as a seeming favourite. When she took the first set off Khazaniuk, almost all doubts were cleared. It looked like it was going to be a third title on the trot. But Khazaniuk, 4 years younger than the Swiss, had other ideas. She brushed the disappointment of a first set loss aside and responded with a very clinical display. She served well, returned well, moved well, and suffocated Perrin to take the second set 6-1, levelling the match and reasserting doubts. In the third set, Khazaniuk heaped more pressure on the Swiss and powered to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory, claiming her first Lagos Open title.

Deniz Khazaniuk poses with her singles trophy after beating Conny Perrin in the final of the first leg of the 2017 Lagos Open.

Perrin’s retaliation would come. And it didn’t take long.

A week later, in the second leg, both women met again in the final.

In that final, Perrin started out brilliantly and raced to a 5-1 lead in the opening set, but her nerves betrayed her as she failed to serve it out. Khazaniuk then took full advantage. With the Israeli drawing level, and Perrin regaining composure just in time, both women drove the set into an electric, extended tiebreak, which Perrin impressively sealed 13-11.

Conny Perrin in action at the 2017 Lagos Open.

After being gripped by nerves earlier, Perrin went on the attack in the second set and never looked back as she closed out the match and championship 7-6(11), 6-3 to lift the singles title for a third time.

The remaining part of the season would have nothing to offer both women.

Their year so far

At the start of the 2018 season, Deniz Khazaniuk tried to get into the main draws of WTA events in Acapulco and Monterrey in February and March respectively, but failed the qualifiers. She then returned to the ITF Circuit and shrugged off a string of poor results to reach the final in Osprey, Florida in May where she beat home favourite, Sophie Chang to lift her first title of the season. Since then the 23-year-old Israeli has played in qualifying rounds of more WTA events including the US Open, but has not had much luck.

Conny Perrin, meanwhile, in February made it to the final of an ITF Futures event in Loughborough where she fell just short and a $100,000 event in Surbiton where she also, got beat in the final. In between, she tried to get into the main draws of WTA events in Birmingham and Gstaad, as well as Wimbledon and the US Open but couldn’t wriggle her way out of the qualifying rounds.

Both women will now return to Lagos as the ITF Pro Circuit prepares for a two-week stop in the West African city; they have been listed in the main draws — Perrin is the top seed, while Khazaniuk is seeded second. By all indications, and should all things go in their favour, they will meet in the final again. Best believe, there wouldn’t be a better stage to resume such an intriguing affair.

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