Sylvester Emmanuel rallied from a set down to stun Abdulmumin Babalola and win his first ever CBN Open title in Abuja today.
Abdulmumin Babalola, 33, started off brilliantly as he raced to an early lead and closed out the first set 6-3. The six-time CBN Open champion started the second set in usual fashion – pummeling Emmanuel with series of magnificent forehands that left the 20-year-old scampering all over the court as he took a 5-3 lead.
It seemed as though it was going to be another walkover for Babalola, but Emmanuel should never be underestimated as he somehow found the mental strength to come back late in the second set.
The 20-year-old stayed afloat as he saved match point after match point to draw level, taking the second set to a tiebreaker which he claimed 7-2 with stupendous shot making. From there onwards, there was no looking back.
With a blend of skill, ability, speed and power, Emmanuel stormed into an unassailable 3-0 lead in the final set. Babalola attempted a comeback, but Emmanuel fought off the challenge to claim a 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory in nearly 3 hours of gripping tennis.
“It’s my first time winning this tournament,” Emmanuel said in a post match interview. “So I’m happy.”
“I looked up to [Abdulmumin] Babalola when I started playing tennis. It’s my first time beating him and I feel very happy about it.”
After finishing as a finalist in 2016, Emmanuel came into this tournament with high hopes and in the middle of a difficult draw. He, however defied the odds with impressive victories over Joseph Imeh, Henry Atseye and Clifford Enosoregbe before working his way past Babalola in this final to cap off an extraordinary week in Abuja.
In the women’s final, which also took place today, Sarah Adegoke claimed back-to-back CBN Open titles after coming back from a set down to beat Christie Agugbom 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 in over 2 hours.
When asked how she felt about her performance and the victory, the 20-year-old repeatedly said, “I’m just so happy.”
The President of the Nigerian Tennis Federation, Engr. Dayo Akindoju lauded the partnership between the Central Bank of Nigeria and the NTF and also heaped praise on the overall quality of the tournament.
“I will rate this… 90%,” the President said, laughing heartily.