From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Dogged fighter, Joseph Imeh, last weekend, in Abuja smiled home with a whopping sum of N700,000 after emerging winner in the men’s singles of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Senior Open Tennis tournament.
Imeh defeated a more focused Uche Oparaoji in a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 thrilling encounter after he carved in during the second set.
Fortune equally smiled on Oyinlomo Quadri, who won the women’s singles after defeating Edwards Marylove 6-0, 6-0.
Speaking to newsmen after the energy-sapping encounter, Imeh who proudly earned N700,000 for his effort, noted that his semi-finals match against Nonso Madueke boosted his confidence.
“Madueke is a good player. I was prepared for a long and tough match but it wasn’t so because he was injured.
“After I won my semi-final match, I was optimistic about winning my first CBN title and it happened. I am happy,” he confessed.
The women’s singles final saw Marylove Edwards lose 0-6 0-6 to defending champion Quadri.
“I am excited about winning because I had been looking forward to defending my title,” Quadri said.
In the men’s double, Abdulmumin Babalola and Lawal Shehu paired to win event while Quadre and Serena Teluwo were winners in the women’s doubles.
Alex Adewale won the men’s wheelchair event while Chituru Nwaozuzu was champion in the women’s event.
The ‘grand slam’ fully sponsored by CBN as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), was a week-long tournament with over 250 participating athletes.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, promised a more mouth-watering edition in the future.
Represented by the acting Director Corporate Communications, Ostia Nwanisobi, the apex Bank boss said: “We are proud to note that for the past 41 years, the CBN has vigorously supported the game of tennis in Nigeria, during which we have witnessed the discovery of an array of talented young men and women.
“With the likes of Kehinde Ajayi, Remi Osho, David Imonite, Segun Balogun, Babalola Abdulmumini, and Emmanuel Sylvester, dominating the Men’s Singles category, while Anne Abimiku, Veronica Oyebokia, Veronica Okonkwo, Osaro Amadin, Aminat Balogun, Adegoke Sarah, Christy Agugbom and Melisa Ifidzen have emerged champions of the lady’s category.
“Year after year, we have met the objective of using the CBN Senior Open Tennis Championship to discover emerging tennis talents that represent the country at major competitions in Africa and beyond, such as the Davis Cup and the All Africa Games.
“At the CBN, we are particularly thrilled that the “CBN Junior Tennis Tournament”, which we introduced in 2006 for boys and girls within the age groups of 10 to 16 has continued to serve as a feeder to the senior Open Championship.
“As some of you might be aware, the finals of the 14th edition of the championship held at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Lagos on October 11, 2020 and players drawn from various parts of the country participated in the tournament.
“It is pertinent to note that some of the players that participated in this year’s championship are products of the CBN Junior Tournament.
“I believe that the past eight days have been very competitive among the players who gave it their all in a bid to become the 2020 champions in the various categories. Let me therefore salute all the players who travelled from across the country to participate in this year’s competition.
“I particularly wish to commend your sportsmanship and camaraderie, which are key ingredients in fostering our national unity and promoting peace.
“The total prize money for the various categories of the Championship is pegged at N12.9 million with the winners of both the men’s and ladies’ singles getting the star prizes of N700,000 each.
“The CBN management is very impressed by the level of competition among players and will continue to sponsor the Senior Open Tennis championship to ensure it retains its status as a major sporting event in the calendar of the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF).
“Let me also reiterate that the CBN remains passionate about the youth of this great country and will continue to seek ways to empower and impact on the lives of its teeming young population as the role of sports in youth development anywhere in the world cannot be overemphasized.
“Sports provide an avenue to engage young people positively, and by so doing curb delinquency. Competitive sports often serve as platforms to showcase raw talents in young people, leading to recognition and social advancement.
“Beyond sports, the CBN recognizes the challenge of access to credit faced by many promising entrepreneurs, particularly the youth in this period of global economic uncertainties further made difficult by the Corona Virus pandemic.
“In response to the aforementioned, we have established various Development Finance interventions such as the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Scheme (YEDP), Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF), Vocational Entrepreneurship Development Centres (VEDCs), the Agri-Business/Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS), the Creative Industry and Finance Initiative (CIFI) among others.
“I therefore urge Nigerian youths to take advantage of these initiatives to contribute to the country’s growth and development,” the CBN boss noted.