Nigeria’s No.1, Blessing Samuel, recounts her most difficult opponent on the national scene, and expresses a strong desire for CBN Open glory this year.
Samuel, 28, had a remarkable season in 2018, winning three consecutive national titles—Vemp Open, Rainoil Open, and the Dala Hard Court Tennis Championship—and then, displaced Sarah Adegoke at the top of the women’s NTF rankings, to finish the year as number one in the country.
The phenomenal Nigerian, who played brilliantly for most part of the season in national tourneys, has revealed the one player she finds it very difficult against.
“Aanu Ayegbusi is my most difficult opponent ever faced, [and] this is because of her style of game,” Samuel divulged. “The International Tennis Academy director [Godwin Kienka] once described her style as that of a hacker on the court.
“Almost everytime I play her, it is mostly decided by a final set and it is always very long and stressful. Every time I play her, I get prepared to stay long on court. I’ve won against her several times, but I’ve also lost a few times too.”
Having been so successful on the national scene for years now, Samuel has also had to endure painful moments. According to her, the defeat in the final of the CBN Open 8 years ago to Biola Akewula ranks top.
“It has to be my 2011 CBN Final loss to Biola Akewula,” she said of her most painful defeat. “I had a good run in the tournament defeating Christie Agugbom in the semis and everyone expected me to win because the crowd was cheering for me. But I lost to Biola because she was the better player on the day. And till date, that was my only CBN Open final, others have been semis.”
The 28-year-old has clinched all other national titles, but the CBN Open continues to elude her. This year, however, she has her sights firmly fixed on achieving glory at the event, and is willing to sacrifice winning every other national tournament for that title-triumph.
“It’s the first [tournament of the season] and I’m training very hard because I need to complete the national slam in Nigeria and I pray to God that I have a good outing.
“I will gladly trade winning all other national tournaments [in 2019] for the CBN because of how prestigious it is,” she said.
“But who says I cannot win all in 2019.”