By Victor Okoye
Nigeria’s number one men’s tennis player Joseph Imeh and tournament’s number four seed Uche Oparaoji will meet in Saturday’s final match of the CBN Senior Open Tennis Championship in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that top seed Imeh endured an error-plagued three-set match which lasted for over two hours before beating third seed Nonso Madueke 5-7 6-3 6-2.
Imeh did struggle with being accurate, but he was able to win after a gruelling and energy-sapping encounter at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium for a chance at his second consecutive title.
The top seed surprisingly threw away a 5-2 lead in the first set as Madueke came from behind to take the set 7-5 before he rallied in the second for a 6-3 win to tie the game at 1-1.
It all came down to the third and final set as both players, visibly tired, struggled to take a hold of the game.
However, the turning point came when Imeh broke Madueke at 3-1 and never looked back as he kept his cool to finish off the set at 6-2.
The other semi-final match was equally as tightly contested for as the first, but unfortunately ended abruptly towards the tail end of the second set.
This was after the umpire decided to award the match to Oparaoji at 6-3, 5-4 due to several court violations by his opponent, Nigeria’s former number one-ranked player Thomas Otu.
Henry Ubochi, the tournament’s referee, told NAN the organisers have had issues with Otu’s conduct in the course of the tournament.
He said they had been tolerating his excesses for a long while, adding that “he clearly does not understand the rules of the game”.
“In the match today, the umpire followed the procedure. First of all, when a player commits an offence on the court, you give a code violation warning.
“If he commits a second offence, you give a code violation point penalty and then a code violation game penalty when a third offence is committed. The players are very well aware of all these rules.
“When he (Otu) started to misbehave during the course of the match, my attention was drawn to the court by the chair umpire.
“Otu clearly violated one of the rules in my presence, kicking the ball out of the court while arguing with the umpire and that unfortunately was his third code violation.
“So, the umpire was left with no choice but to issue him a game penalty and that was unfortunately for him game set and match,” Ubochi added.
Otu, on his part, argued that his frustration was borne out of the fact that he was not given medical attention when he requested for one after picking up an injury.
“First of all, I am not a rookie in the game as I have been playing in this tournament for quite a long time now, both in Lagos and here in Abuja, and I understand the rules perfectly.
“My opponent took the first set 6-3 and was leading 5-4 in the second before I had an injury and fell down in the court while the game was going on.
“So, I signaled to the umpire that I was in need of medical attention but he denied me access to the medics, which is totally against the rules of the game.
“When I protested, I was then given several code violations and a point awarded to my opponent, which didn’t go down well with me and at this point I was very angry and lost control of myself.
“The tennis rule clearly states that ‘when a player sustains an injury, a three-minute medical timeout should be given’. So, I don’t understand why the umpire denied me a medical timeout which is my right as a player.
“This is about the eighth time I am participating in this tournament after emerging champion of the 38th edition in Lagos and in all my playing time I have never experienced this kind of situation, even when I played outside the shores of this country,” a frustrated Otu told NAN.
The championship which began on Monday ends on Saturday.(NAN)