Samuel Antwi and Akua Akuma Hanson brought Accra to a standstill on Saturday, 27th March, when the two talents dazzled fans at the Tennis Centre to claim the coveted trophies and prize money of the Accra Open. Akua Hanson handed a 6-2, 6-2 swift defeat to Antoinette Cruickshank. Antwi proved unstoppable in Accra delivering a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Benjamin Fumi.
The Accra Open, sponsored and patronised by accomplished artist Amoako Boafo, and supported by Gallery 1957 under the auspices of the Ghana Tennis Federation is in its second year. The second edition attracted over ninety men and women tennis players nationwide who vied for the USD$2,000 prize tag for the victor of each category. The organisers cumulatively pumped over USD$16,000 into the tournament, making it the highest grossing tennis tournament on the Ghana tennis calendar.
The 13-year old sensation and future hope of Ghana tennis, Akua Hanson, commenced proceedings on the final day of Accra Open facing a tennis weaving wizard and tricky opponent in Antoinette Cruickshank. The teenager made her intentions clear early on, breaking Cruikshank’s serve games twice before the experienced wizard could secure a game in the first set. Akua rounded the set up quickly at 6-2.
The top-spin, underhand slices and dragged-out rallies that have characterised Cruikshank’s game and presented obstacles to other challengers like Yvonne Bruce-Tagoe and Ankrah during the week was blunted by Hanson’s mental toughness brilliant shot placement. Soon thereafter, it became clear to the filled arena that victory would go the way of the teen. Akua won the second set 6-2 to seal her victory on Centre Court, her second over Antoinette Cruikshank in recent weeks.
Antwi, on the hand, came into the final as the dark horse and underdog confronting a far experienced and tested Benjamin Fumi. The latter had played a tough semi-final round against Benjamin Palm the previous day and had come on top. But Antwi, under the radar, had defeated his detractors with surprising ease.
In an arena of two divided fans on either side of the Centre Court, one could feel the vibration in the stands. It would appear the masks worn all around the venue could not contain the excitement. Antwi drew first blood, breaking Fumi’s serve and taking a 5-0 unassailable lead in the first set before Fumi would grab a game and eventually close out the set at 6-4.
As the match wore on riding on the wings of chants from the fans, it was obvious that Antwi’s athleticism and ability to act as a boomeranging wall that returned every blasting ball would be his asset. Fumi appeared exhausting with shot after shot coming back on his side of the court. His attempts to mix his shot selection with drop shots and lobs, noticing that Antwi is a baseliner, did not yield the desired results.
Meanwhile Antwi remained focused, feeding on the energy from the fans and seeking affirmation from his Atomic Club team. He piled on the pressure, relying on the depth of his shots instead of power unlike his Fumi. Fumi caved.
Antwi, who is currently undertaking his National Service, will definitely have a target on his back after after such a massive victory. On a day that two rising stars punched huge holes in the game of their experienced opponents, is this a sign that Ghana tennis is finally transitioning?
By: Nana Yaw Sarpong