Tennis  

Battle for $100, 000 prize money in Lagos

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode presenting trophy to the winner during last year’s final at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode presenting trophy to the winner during last year’s final at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan

• As 16th Governor’s Cup Tennis Ends

After securing his semifinal ticket on Thursday, tournament number one seed in the men’s category, Spain’s Enrique Lopez-Perez, squealed at the top of his voice saying: “This title belongs to me.”

Lopez-Perez has every reason to count his chicks even before they are hatched. “I have worked so hard for this tournament and I believe I should get the reward,” he told The Guardian as he made his way from the Lord Rumens central court of Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan.

Lopez-Perez, who won Futures 5 of the tournament last weekend, had a smooth ride to the semi by defeating number 8 seed, Maciej Smola of Poland in straight set of 7-6,7-5. That set him up for a clash against Moez Echargui of Tunisia yesterday, which he won to reach the final of the second leg (Futures 6).

But Lopez-Perez has one more hurdle to cross in his bid to winning the star prize at stake. He will face Calvin Hemery of France in today’s epic final.

For the women, Tadeja Majeric of Slovakia has an easy ride over Julia Terziyska from Bulgaria in another straight set of 6-4,6-2 to set up final battle against her opponent in last weekend’s final, Conny Perrin of Switzerland, who upset number one seed in the women’s category, Valentini Grammatikopoulou from Greece in a game that ended 6-3,6-1.

Lopez-Perez and Majeric were outstanding in the first leg (Futures 5), claiming the top prizes of both the men and women’s singles.

This afternoon, the stage is set for the two players to win the competition back to back within two weeks. In their respective semi finals yesterday, Lopez-Perez fought hard to beat Tunisian Moez Echargui in a game that ended 6-1,3-6,6-0, to set up final clash against Calvin Hemery of France, who defeated compatriot Gianni Mina in straight set of 6-1,6-4.

To Lopez-Perez, coming to Nigeria after a long injury laid off and winning Futures 5 and on the verge of winning Futures 6 is a big achievement in 2016. He vowed yesterday that he would give the final match his all.

Majeric on her own part, said that she is expecting nothing less than victory against Perrin, who has become her perennial enemy in Lagos since she had been coming to play Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship in the past six editions.

Before now, the total prize money for the competition was $80,000, with the women’s single champion pocketing $50,000 against $30,000 for the male. But Governor Akinwunmi Ambode raised the bar, when he increased it to $100,000, a step that was hailed by many tennis lovers, particularly the President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, Sani Ndanusa.

As expected, the increment in prize money of the 2016 Lagos Governor’s Cup Futures drew over 109 top ranked players from 39 countries to Lagos State.

This year’s competition is the second since Ambode took over the mantle of leadership from former Governor Babatunde Fashola, who is now minister for Power, Works and Housing.

The Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis competition, which is an ITF-approved pro circuit, started during the tenure of Governor Bola Tinubu, a man described in Nigerian tennis circle as an excellent manager of man and resources, as well as a great mobiliser of youths.

Fashola, who succeeded him in 2007, fell in love with the tournament and even improved on it, thereby making the Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis a destination point for young tennis players across the globe.

“This tournament will continue to attract more players to the city of Lagos,” NTF boss, Ndanusa told The Guardian. “The Confederation of African Tennis (CAT) and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) are so much moved with the enthusiasm Governor Ambode showed in taking the competition to the next level and we will continue to thank him.

“The Lagos Governor’s Cup has been adjudged as the biggest tennis tournament in sub Sahara Africa, as it has been able to attract a lot of players around the world and delivered future stars in the game. It has also made Lagos a tourism destination in Africa, as foreign players come to Lagos with their coaches and parents and they left with good story of hospitality bestowed on them in Lagos”, he stated.

As all roads lead to the venue this afternoon for final ceremony, the Local Organising Committee (LOC), headed by Chief Pius Akinyelure has promised a colourful event.

Governor Ambode will be in attendance to watch the final of the men’s singles, which serves off by 3pm. The women’s singles final is scheduled for 12:30pm.

Before then, the media tennis, an exhibition game, will take place with the likes of Chief Segun Odegbami (MON) and other journalists taking to the courts.

The first leg (Futures 5) of this year’s edition of the competition ended last Saturday with players of Spain and Slovakia winning the men and women’s singles title.

Spain’s Enrique Lopez – Perez, who won the competition in the 2012 edition, did it again when he defeated Gianni Mina in the grudge final of the men’s singles that ended 6-2, 6-7(7), 6-1.

In the women’s singles, Slovak Majeric, who won the final in the 2013 edition and runner up in the 2015 competition, was superb in the final against a regular face in the Governor’s Cup in the last six years, Swiss Conny Perrin.

When the second round of the men’s singles event started last Wednesday, five Nigerian tennis players made a bright start. In fact, the duo of Clifford Enosoregbe and Sylvester Emmanuel caused major upsets.

Enosoregbe recorded a shock 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-2 win over eighth seed Polish Maciej Smola, while Emmanuel overcame tournament’s number six seed Benin Republic’s Klegou Alexis 6-7, 6-1, 7-6 (1) in a grueling match that lasted three hours 15 minutes.

However, Enosoregbe, failed to make it pass the second round as he could not finish his match against Tunisian Moez Echargui due to injury.

The Edo born player, a wildcard entrant, lost 3-6,0-4 (retired) to the Tunisian star on his birthday, though with his head high.

Some other Nigerians who gave a good account of themselves in this year’s tournament include Joseph Imeh Uboh, Mohammed Mohammed, Thomas Otu and Albert Bisong Bikom among others.

Secondary school students from across Lagos State and many tennis pundits will be present at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club for today’s final ceremony.

Tournament Director, Prince Wale Oladunjoye told The Guardian yesterday that the LOC, NTF and the management of the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club have put everything in place to make today’s final a hitch free.

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