Samuel and Adegoke, in recent times, have been unarguably two of the finest players in Nigerian tennis.
So good, all seven national titles since the start of the 2017 season have been shared between them. In 2017, Adegoke was the more dominant force, with title-winning runs at the CBN Open and Rainoil Open on either side of a runner-up finish at the Dala Hard Court in Kano. In the final in Kano, she was well beaten by Blessing Samuel, taking only 3 games off the then 27-year-old. Less than a month later, she exacted her revenge, beating Samuel 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the Rainoil Open to end her year on a high and atop the NTF rankings.
Adegoke would remain No.1 deep into the 2018 season, where she began with a title at the 40th edition of the CBN Open in Abuja.
But if Adegoke was a force to reckon with in 2017, Samuel owned 2018. After a semi-final exit at the hands of Christie Agugbom at the CBN Open, Samuel went on a brilliant run, clinching three national titles on the trot to stamp her authority and overtake Sarah Adegoke as the country’s No.1.
At the Vemp Open in Abuja, she beat Loveth Donatus, who had beaten Adegoke in the semis, in straight sets for the title. At the Rainoil Open, she fought back to stun Christie Agugbom, who also, had beaten Adegoke in the semis. And in Kano, at Dala, Samuel would get the better of Adegoke for the second year running, beating the 21-year-old 6-3, 7-6(4) for a fifth title at the event.
Their rivalry would continue in the NCC Tennis League. In a third place match between Team Leadway Assurance and Team Goshen, Adegoke played an instrumental role in leading Leadway Assurance to a third-place finish, when she steamrolled Samuel of Team Goshen 6-1, 6-1 in the ladies singles to further increase her team’s chances of victory.
We could see both women continue an interesting rivalry this season, and whoever is going to be more dominant player is anyone’s guess.