Ahead of the 2019 CBN Senior Open, Nigeria’s Thomas Otu has said he will fight hard to reclaim the title he last won in 2015.

In 2017, Thomas Otu rounded up his season on a fine note, when he won the Dala Hard Court title in Kano, defeating Joseph Imeh in straight sets. But the dynamic Nigerian would start his 2018 season on the wrong foot and fail to put together a good run in all of the national tournaments he played in that year.

At the NCC Tennis League, however, he played an instrumental role, alongside Joseph Imeh and Aanu Aiyegbusi, in Team Techvibe’s title-run, which ended in December. Otu remarkably defeated Christian Paul in the deciding singles to confirm victory for the Jos-based team.

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Thomas Otu hoisted by his teammates after securing the all-important match-win to seal victory for Team Techvibe in the final of the NCC Tennis League in Lagos last year.

He has however attributed his lack of success in national tournaments last year to a scarcity of adequate challenge.

“Actually, tennis is a sport that everyone has to be focused and serious, coupled with hard trainings so you can meet up,” Otu said. “When we don’t have much tournaments, the players lose focus. You can’t be training, training when you’re not having challenge, it is wrong,” the 25-year-old lamented. “I couldn’t meet up with the tournaments last year, not until the NCC finals in December.”

He’s now looking to shrug off his struggles last year and get off to a great start this year.

Four years on from his sole CBN Open triumph, where he defeated the then defending champion, Moses Michael in the final, Otu is aiming to go all the way again. “With the CBN coming up in Abuja, I will fight hard,” he said.

The 25-year-old is also not fazed by the number of talents on the national scene, including Sylvester Emmanuel and Joseph Imeh, both of whom shared the national tournaments in 2018. Otu is confident in his abilities and believes he has what it takes to achieve success.

“Like I said, if I had played more competitions, I don’t think they [other players] can withstand me,” he said. “I know the way I train, I know what I can do. I believe that if I train hard I can surely get to the top. I’ve defeated them enroute to a title.” And he’s been putting in the work and isn’t slowing down on his training regime.

“I’ve been hitting the balls all day. I train 3 times a day. I play more in the sun here in Lagos because of the hot weather in Abuja.”

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Over the years, Otu has been known to always prevail in finals. And he affirms, saying: “I played so many junior tournaments in Nigeria and across Africa when I was younger. From the Under-12 through the Under-18, I never lost in the final. So when I penetrated through the CBN [in 2015] to the finals, I was almost certain I was going to win it because of my record.”

With that, surely all that’s needed now is for him to get to another final? First though, he will have to work his way through the draw and that’s where the real test lies. Will he do well to pass it?

The 2019 CBN Senior Open will get under way on 20 June – 29 June at the National Tennis Centre in Abuja.