October 01, (THEWILL) – The grand finale of the 3rd Edition of the Prince Bayo Ikujenyo Table Tennis Championship took place on Friday, October 1, at the expansive Prince Bayo Ikujenyo Table Tennis Hall, in the Olawale Otesile Park, Area 4, OPIC Estate, Agbara.
Under the esteemed chairmanship of the chairman and chief executive officer of Mutual Benefits Assurance, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi, the contestants for the top male and top female prizes sweated out keenly contested finals to the applause of the appreciative crowd.
The occasion began with preliminary remarks delivered by the host, Prince Bayo Ikujenyo, who welcomed all and sundry to the third edition of the competition..
Prince Ikujenyo quickly ran through the day’s schedule, adding that the occasion will begin with the semi-finals and then wrap up with the finals.
Prince Ikujenyo introduced the chairman of the day, Dr Ogunbiyi, to the appreciative applause of all present as he took his place at the high table. Next to join the chairman at the table was the deputy provost of the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED), Dr. Adedayo Daodu.
Other invited guests that graced the occasion were the president of the Ogun State Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (OGUNCCIMA) Alhaji Wasiu Olaleye; the former OGUNCCIMA President, Mr. Akinola Lawson; the president of the Residents’ Association of OPIC Estate (RAOPIC) Pastor Idowu Alebiosu; one of the oldest residents of the OPIC Estate, Engineer Adefesan, and the human resources manager of African Fertilizers and Chemicals Nigeria Limited, Mr. Rajinder Malhotra.
After the opening prayers led by a Christian and Muslim, the first semi-final contestants in the male category took to the table. After a brief exchange of hits across the table, Akanbi Rilwan and Ubanekwo Jude began the Best of Five contest, with two serves each.
Akanbi was the better of the pair and easily took the first set 11-5. Ubanekwo looked to start off the second set better but only briefly because from 2-2, Akanbi took a string of games to run to 7-2 lead before Ubanekwo won the next two serves. Still, there was no contest as Akanbi took the second set 11-4. It was not much different in the third set with Akanbi winning 11-4 again for a 3-0 win.
In the second semi-final in the male category, Dele Melekeowei took on Surmer Qudus, the left-handed semi-finalist, who had shown his pristine long-range skills in the exhibition and warm-ups for the main event. In a tough first set, the pair matched each other’s play with Qudus earning the appreciation of the gathering with applause for a strike that took the score to 5-3 in his favour. He served for the match at 10-8 but missed a strike to take it to 10-9 before winning at 11-9.
Qudus was more at ease in the second set and edged ahead to take it to 7-2 before he mis-hit a strike and allowed Melekeowei back into the game. It was not for long because Qudus won the second set 11-5. The pair played a similar third set but Qudus turned up the style at the onset with a strike from distance that won him the applause of the guests and audience. They played a long rally before Melekeowei won a point off the edge of the table. But, Qudus pulled away from him to win the third set 11-5.
In the female semi-finals, Boluwatife Mustapha played Funmilayo Adesosu in the first fixture. The game was a match at 4-4 when Mustapha turned up the style and took a 9-5 lead, before winnin the first set 11-8. Mustapha carried that form to the second set but at 3-3 Adesosu came back and earned huge applause by winning a long rally at 5-3. The net did not help Mustapha as Adesosu took the second set 11-5.
In a very one-sided third set that followed, a series of Adesosu errors, from missing the ball to knocking it out of the board and hitting the net, conspired to give Mustapha an unassailable 11-1 win as she used her serve to her advantage. Now, at two sets to one, Mustapha needed one more set to qualify for the final, and that was exactly what she got with a 11-7 win.
The second semi-final in the female category pitched Eniola Ogunbanwo against Surmer Zainab. It was exciting watching Ogunbanwo play because of all the fun she was having and her unsuccessful attempts to dodge the several times Surmer smashed the ball in her direction. Surmer, who had shown her hand in the exhibition match dialled it down a little and the first set still ended in her favour 11-5. A series of Ogunbanwo funny moments to avoid being hit by the ball when she raised it too high for Surmer to smash elicited laughter in the second set but, because Surmer missed most of the strikes, Ogunbanwo took the second set 11-9.
From 4-3, Surmer went far as 9-3 in the third set before Ogunbanwo got one more point. However, Surmer wrapped it up to win 11-4. The fourth set was another lopsided encounter as Surmer went on a roll from 0-0 to 10-0. She hit a backhand, smashed some more and it appeared Ogunbanwo had simply conceded before the end. Surmer graciously allowed her a point with a purposeful error before closing it out 11-1.
The next match was the women’s finals and Surmer immediately returned to play the winner of the first semi-final Mustapha. It was a more matched encounter as neither side allowed the other an opportunity to go too far before catching up. At 3-2, Surmer earned applause with a smash that took the points to 3-3. Although Mustapha inched ahead to 8-5, Surmer caught up with another applause from another smash for 8-8. However, Mustapha finished the set on top 11-8.
The second set followed the same pattern but it was a lot tighter and elicited more appreciative applause as it continued. The players kept at each other until it was 10-9 in Mustapha’s favour and she held on to win 11-9. However, Surmer took a 5-0 lead in the third set, winning it 11-4.
In the final set played, Mustapha recovered from the error-strewn third set. Just like the first and second, they ere evenly matched until at 8-8, Mustapha focused on her service to take the set 11-8 and emerge the female champion for the 3rd edition.
It was then time for the male finalists, Akanbi Rilwan and Surmer Qudus, to slug it out for the male champion. They started with a set of long-range shots, multiple long rallies, and smashes to the absolute entertainment of everyone present. The first applause for the men’s final came for the left-handed but supremely gifted Qudus when he won the point for 2-3 but a long rally allowed Akanbi to catch up and level at 3-3. At 9-9, Qudus failed to return the ball but was called for his strenuous attempts. He still prevailed and won the first set 9-11.
Akanbi shrugged off the tight end to the first set and immediately caught up with Qudus at 3-3 in the second to go on a points haul that took the score to 10-3 with applause. Qudus tried to catch up but Akanbi took it 11-5. In the third set, a long rally finished with Qudus inching ahead 3-4, but Akanbi got back quickly and took a 10-6 lead before winning the second set 11-8. before leaving Qudus at 6-6 to go up 10-6 and take the second set 11-8.
In the third set, the finalists continued to entertain with long rallies, long-distance shots and ball smashes. Akanbi looked destined to take it with a 7-2 lead, but Qudus picked up the pace to take it to 10-10 with one of the longest rallies in the final up to that point. But, the players could still not be separated until Akanbi mis-hit the ball and Qudus won 13-15. It forced the final to a decider. The tight encounter remained anyone’s game until 10-9 when a long rally that saw Akanbi send Qudus right and left of the table finished with an Akanbi strike worthy of any final victory to give him a 3-2 set win.
At the end of the showpiece, Prince Ikujenyo called out the prizes for the contestants. All those who participated in the first stage were rewarded with N10,000, while those who made it to the second stage got N25,000. The semi-finalists got N50,000 while the female and male runner-ups got N75,000 and N100,000, respectively. The female champion got N150,000 and a trophy, while the male champion got N200,000 and a trophy.