By; AYO OJEDOKUN, Lagos
As the Lagos Open Tennis serves off, fans are expected to see fierce battles and rivalries among the players featuring in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) approved competition this year. The competition starts this weekend t the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan.
It is said that rivalries are borne out of certain factors. It could be longevity, could be contrasting personalities or style. It could be the epic nature of their matches. For Switzerland’s Conny Perrin, who is ranked 149 and Denis Khazaniuk of Israel, who is on number 229 in the world, the latter is the case, and it has made the rivalry between these two women quite distinctive and intriguing.
Conny Perrin and Deniz Khazaniuk had played each other just twice, with a win apiece. Both matches have come in the final of the Lagos Open in Onikan, and it is the nature of both encounters that has made it one to be talked about.
With this year’s Lagos Open set to serve off this weekend, we take a look at this intriguing duel, which lit up the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club last year- and could well do once again in 2018.
In October 2017, and in only her second time at the Lagos Open, Israel’s Khazaniuk wormed her way out of a tricky draw to reach the final of the first leg of the women’s singles. She would go on to face Conny Perrin, who was already a back-to-back champion – 2015 and 2016 – in Lagos.
Having surrendered just one set that week, Perrin entered the match as a seeming favourite.
When she took the first set off Khazaniuk, almost all doubts were cleared. It looked like it was going to be a third title on the trot. But Khazaniuk, four years younger than the Swiss, had other ideas.
She brushed the disappointment of a first set loss aside and responded with a very clinical display. She served well, returned well, moved well, and suffocated Perrin to take the second set 6-1, levelling the match. In the third set, Khazaniuk heaped more pressure on the Swiss and powered to a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory, claiming her first Lagos Open title.
Perrin’s retaliation would come. And it didn’t take long.
A week later, in the second leg, both women met again in the final.
In that final, Perrin started out brilliantly and raced to a 5-1 lead in the opening set, but her nerves betrayed her as she failed to serve it out. Khazaniuk then took full advantage. With the Israeli drawing level, and Perrin regaining composure just in time, both women drove the set into an electric, extended tiebreak, which Perrin impressively sealed 13-11.
Perrin went on the attack in the second set and never looked back as she closed out the match and championship 7-6(11), 6-3 to lift the singles title for a third time.
Are we set for another Perrin/Khazaniuk classic in 2018?
Both women are back in Lagos as the ITF Pro Circuit prepares for a two-week stop in the West African city; Perrin is the top seed, while Khazaniuk is seeded second.
Should the seedings hold, these two stars will meet in the final again. Best believe, there wouldn’t be a better stage to demonstrate this.