The draws for the N5.1 million prize-money Rainoil Open have been made and the men’s singles defending champion, Henry Atseye would have to negotiate past landmines if he’s to have a successful title defense. In the other half of the draw, Nigeria’s No.1 Joseph Imeh has his path well-paved.
Henry Atseye, who ticked through to victory with sublime efficiency last year to win the inaugural title, will kick start his title-defense campaign against youngster, Philip Abayomi. Victory will see him face either Charles Nwandu or Chinedu Iwuagbwu in the second round. Should Atseye avoid any slip ups, then the dangerous Michael Chima could be waiting in the third round.
Veteran, Abdulmumin Babalola or Nigeria’s Davis Cup team player, Christian Paul loom in the quarterfinals. Should Atseye replicate his heroics last year, then he could have either seventh seed, Clifford Enosoregbe or the red-hot Sylvester Emmanuel to contend with in the semifinals.
Nigeria’s No.2 Sylvester Emmanuel, who is seeking to clinch his third national title on the trot will fancy his chances against wildcard entrant, Isaac Attah in the first round. Emmanuel’s real test could come in the quarterfinals against former national champion, Clifford Enosoregbe.
In the other half, last year’s finalist, Joseph Imeh is fancied to go all the way again.
Imeh, who’s made the finals of five of the last six national tournaments, will open up against qualifier Franklin Ronald and then could go on to face Sani Adamu or Tochukwu Ezeh in the second round. 33-year-old Shehu Lawal awaits in the third round, provided the veteran successfully negotiates past David Dawariye in the opening round and Abamu Martins or Kalade Kienka in the second round.
Imeh could meet Emmanuel Idoko in the quarterfinals, while Nigeria’s No.4 Thomas Otu is a projected opponent in the semis.
Interestingly, should Sylvester Emmanuel edge Clifford Enosoregbe and then oust the defending champion, Henry Atseye in the semis, then we could have a repeat of the Vemp Open final between Emmanuel and Joseph Imeh, with the NTF number one ranking on the line, as only five points separate both men atop the NTF log.
In the women’s bracket, defending champion, Sarah Adegoke and last year’s finalist, Blessing Samuel have been placed in opposite halves of the draw and are projected to meet in the finals again.
Adegoke, the country’s No.1, opens up against Stella Udokwelu and her only real test could come in the semifinals against veteran Christie Agugbom. Elsewhere, Blessing Samuel, who won the Vemp Open in September, takes on youngster, Toyin Asogba in the opening round.
The Rainoil Open Tennis Championship is live at the Ikoyi Club, Lagos from Monday, 12 November to Saturday, 17 November.