Team Civil Defence of Abuja on Sunday in Lagos won the NCC Tennis League Cup by beating Team Muller 4-0 in a tie the latter were considered favourites to win.
The Civil Defence team were making their third attempt at winning the cup which this year had N7 million as prize for the champions. In 2015, the team which this year had the national men’s and women’s champions, lost in the finals to Team Tombim of Abuja and last year were eliminated in the semi-finals by Team Offikwu of Kaduna who went on to win the title.
There was no denying the para-military team this third time as they came very well prepared and determined to face a team which had beaten them 4-3 in the round robin series. Their determination saw them come back from a set down in the first two men’s singles to take a 2-0 lead which Christie Agugbom, the national women’s champion, stretched to 3-0 by beating Ronke Akingbade 6-4, 6-2.
No doubt, nature and a dose of luck played a part in the outcome as Team Muller came out on the opening day firing on all cylinders. Joseph Imeh, who won the MTN Most Outstanding Player of the league award, led 6-4, 4-4 against Abdulmumuni Babalola and Emmanuel Idoko of Muller was tied 6-4, 3-6 with Clifford Enosoregbe before a rain interruption that washed off the entire opening day.
The more experienced Team Civil Defence took full advantage of the respite provided by the rain and completely turned the tables on the final day with Babalola beating Imeh 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 and Enosoregbe defeating Idoko 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The men’s doubles became the decisive match as a win for Team Muller would kick-in the two men’s reverse singles while a win by Team Civil Defence would establish an unassailable 4-0 lead.
Babalola and Enosoregbe pushed themselves to the limit against the younger pair of Imeh and Idoko winning 7-6, 2-6, 11-9 to avoid reverse singles matches which would have favoured their opponents.
The grand finale which was spiced by exciting performances by dance troupes also had a tribute segment to a former Vice President of Nigeria late Sir Alex Ekwueme (GCON) who had attended all the two previous editions and was a great patron of the International Tennis Academy, the organisers of the NCC Tennis League.
In the third place match which preceded the championship, defending champions, Team Offikwu salvaged some pride by defeating Team Ndoma-Egba six matches to one. The third place winner got N3 million while Team Ndoma got N2 million for their fourth place finish.
For the first time in the league, there were individual awards for the Most Outstanding Players (MOP) in various categories which were endowed by the MTN. The MOP for the men was won by Imeh who did not lose a match in the round robin series while the women’s went to Sarah Adegoke who did not lose a match in the entire series.
The Most Improved Player category was won by Patience Onebamhoin for the women and Ikechukwu Iloputa for the men while the Most Outstanding Junior category was won by Marylove Edwards and Emmanuel Jebutu.
The last awards endowed by Main One Ltd were for the Best Host and Best Away teams.
Team Goshen of Ilorin won the best host award while newcomers, Team Tech Vibe of Jos won the best away team award.
Smile Communications also chipped in with MIFIs for winning teams, giving them unlimited access to the internet on their road trips in 2018.
The NCC Tennis League featuring 12 teams playing across 12 cities over a six month stretch is the first of its kind in Africa and is regarded as the biggest addition to Nigerian sports since independence.
The competition offered a total consolidated prize money of N23 million.