HEMERY ACES HIS WAY TO VICTORY, RESILIENCE PAYS OFF FOR BHATIA AT THE LAGOS OPEN.
An incredible fortnight of tennis at the Lagos Open came to an end with the Men’s and Women’s Singles Finals of the second week on Monday, October 21.
In the Women’s Singles Final, India’s Riya Bhatia, seeded 4th, defeated 6th-seeded Slovenian Nastja Kolar 7-5, 1-6, 6-3.
It was a tight first set from the start. Serving for the set at 5-3, it looked like Bhatia would close it out easily, but Kolar rallied to 5-5, forcing errors out of her opponent. The Indian, however, went on to break, before taking the opening set 7-5.
The second set was a different story as Kolar raised her level and Bhatia began showing signs of exhaustion. Her semi-final match against compatriot Rutuja Bhosale lasted over 3 hours and had obviously taken a toll on her. The Indian also needed a medical time-out, having some trouble with her right arm. Kolar took the second set 6-1, sending the match into a decider.
The third set was nail-biting as both players left it all on court. Bhatia’s pace and power, and Kolar’s creativity and composure were even more evident. The Indian sealed the match with an ace, clinching her first Lagos Open title and a third ITF World Tour title.
The 22-year-old expressed her joy and talked about playing through the pain in her arm. “I just kept putting the ball in and it was hurting me so bad. Even lifting the trophy, it’s hurting so much but I am really happy.
“Like I’ve been doing all week, keep playing, keep going no matter what. It’s just one more match, that’s what I keep telling myself.”
It was Bhatia’s third appearance at the Lagos Open after previous showings in 2016 and 2018.
In the Men’s final, 5th seed Calvin Hemery and 7th seed Aldin Sektic were facing each other again, as they had done in the first week with Frenchman Hemery winning the title in straight sets.
The match was eagerly anticipated by fans curious to see if Sektic would have answers to Hemery’s monstrous serve this time. There however wasn’t much to see as, midway through the first set, Sektic called for a medical time-out with a lower back problem. At that point, Hemery was up 4-2. Sektic lasted barely a minute on court after the medical time-out, as he was unable to play through the pain. Hemery was back to back champion after just 6 games.
Hemery had cruised all fortnight, winning every match in straight sets on his way to claiming both titles in the first and second week of the tournament. The 24-year-old entertained the crowd all tournament, serving 41 aces in the first week and 29 before the second week’s final. He now has 6 career 1TF World Tour titles to his name.
“I’m very happy today. Even through all the tough conditions sometimes; the sun, the rain… It wasn’t easy for me to stay throughout this whole tournament, so I’m very happy to finish with this trophy.”
Hemery, whose father is Nigerian, talked about feeling at home in Lagos. “The people, the food… It was awesome. This place is a part of me and I hope to come back to play more tournaments.”