Dala Hard Court: Sylvester Emmanuel renews rivalry with Joseph Imeh after Babalola succumbs

On a semi-final day blighted with injuries, it was Sylvester Emmanuel and Joseph Imeh who moved into the final at the Dala Hard Court, setting up a mouthwatering showdown.

Sylvester Emmanuel took on Abdulmumin Babalola and the opening set was predictably closely-fought. However, Babalola’s hopes of staying on track for a sixth Dala title crashed right before the completion of the first set, with Emmanuel up 5-4. Babalola, who sought to exact revenge for his loss to the 20-year-old at the CBN Open final in June, succumbed to a back injury that had plagued him from the first round.

Emmanuel, perhaps grateful not to have spent much time on court in what might have turned out to be an energy-sapping encounter, will take on top seed, Joseph Imeh, who moved past Nonso Madueke 7-6(0), 5-1(rtd), in Saturday’s final — a repeat of their spine-tingling Vemp Open final encounter.

Imeh, who had prior to this match handed Uche Oparaoji a double bagel, was made to sweat in the opening set by Madueke. Both men would send the set into a tiebreaker, which Imeh sealed after rolling through seven consecutive points.

The top seed began to land unchallenged blows in the second set and raced to a 5-1 lead before Madueke retired due to injury, sending Imeh into his third consecutive national final.

Imeh, a beaten finalist in last year’s edition, will seek to go one better this time when he takes on Sylvester Emmanuel, the man who beat him in the final of the Vemp Open in Abuja two months ago. Emmanuel, on the other hand, will aim to claim his third Dala Hard Court title and first since 2016.

Both men have been in special form all week; all year, in fact. Who will prevail is anyone’s guess.

Joseph Imeh vs Sylvester Emmanuel is live at the Kano Club, Kano from 3:00pm on Saturday. 

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