Nigeria’s No.1, Sylvester Emmanuel turned on the style to beat Ukraine’s Oleg Khotkov 6-4, 6-2 and advance to the second round of the Tombim Abuja Open on Wednesday.
Emmanuel, competing in his first ITF World Tour tournament since the Lagos Open in October last year, signaled his intentions early on by breaking Khotkov’s opening service game and then quickly racing to a 4-0 lead. However, the Ukrainian fought back and restored parity, before Emmanuel produced a strong finish to close out the opening set.
Emmanuel would go on to break Khotkov in the fifth and seventh games of the second set and seal victory in an hour and 26 minutes.
Next up for the sensational Nigerian is Benjamin Lock of Zimbabwe, who defeated 14-year-old Brit, Mukhtar Andu, 6-0, 6-2 in a quick encounter on Court 3.
Meanwhile, Joseph Imeh was edged 6-4, 6-3 by last year’s semifinalist, Danylo Kalenichenko.
The opening set went with serve until the fifth game, where Kalenichenko broke Imeh for a 3-2 lead. Imeh immediately responded, breaking back to draw level at 3-3. But the Ukrainian would carve out the all-important break in the ninth game and then consolidate with a hold to take the set.
The second set started in similar fashion with the first- both men holding their own, until the fifth game where Kalenichenko found the breakthrough. The 25-year-old would remain solid to close out the set and match, and advance to the second round, where he will face Jaimee Floyd Angele of France.
Elsewhere, Nigeria’s Musa Mohammed and Maxime Mora of France were locked in a three-set battle, before cramps in the final set hampered Mohammed’s chances and saw him lose 7-6, 4-6, 6(6)-7.
Mohammed had taken the first set after clinching a tiebreaker, but Mora leveled the match in the second set to force a final set. Both men exchanged breaks early on in the decider, before staying steady on their serves to guide the set into a tiebreaker. The 17-year-old Nigerian, despite struggling with cramps, fought bravely in the tiebreaker but just couldn’t clinch it, as he bowed out after almost 3 hours of grueling tennis.
Some of the big guns withdrew midway, with Maximilian Neuchrist, the top seed, and 4th seed, Tom Jomby, retiring due to injuries.
Neuchrist, a quarterfinalist here last year, who was playing in his first match after a 7-month injury lay-off, started off strongly against America’s Peter Kobelt. The Austrian rushed to a 4-0 lead in the first set, but Kobelt fought back to make a comeback and drive the set into a tiebreaker, which the American won. He then took a 4-3 lead in the second set, before Neuchrist, who had already received treatment twice, called it quits.
Tom Jomby, meanwhile, had powered through the first set 6-2 against William Bashamuka of USA in his own match, before retiring while trailing 2-5 in the second set.
Third seed, Arjun Kadhe of India was rock solid against Hugo Largo of Spain, winning 6-4, 6-3 in 70 minutes and advance to the second round, while Simon Yitbarek of Sweden rallied from a set down to beat Niels Lootsma 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 in 2 hours to also advance.