The year ending 2023 produced a lot of intrigues in Nigerian tennis, especially with many of our youngsters shining like stars.
Many of these players showed that all the trainings and monies being spent by their parents did not go to a waste, with a number of them even getting scholarship in the process.
Not only were they consistent with their performances on the courts, they also ensured that their trophy cabinets were filled with 2023 titles.
Among these players, we have chosen ten whom we believe proved to be consistent and whose year was trophy-laden.
Her name is loosely pronounced ‘Logolay’ and she is always that one girl who is fearless on the court. Her tenacity is almost unmatched as she always proves that she has what it takes to reach the top.
In 2023, our beautiful Lorelay won some amazing tournaments and trophies but two of these stand out as the most outstanding.
First, she led a number of young U-12 players to Ghana, and against all odds, qualified Nigeria for the main event which later held in Morocco. Unfortunately, she could not attend over unavailability of funds.
But what this girl did at the National Youth Games in Asaba, Delta State, confirmed her status as one of those youngsters whose presence in the Nigerian tennis circuit means ‘hope’.
She went all the way to the finals of the age-grade tournament and defeated Bright Emmanuel, the pre-tournament favourite to win the competition.
Nothing prepared Nigerians and tennis followers for the outcome of their final match, but it just felt like it was her year to shine brighter and brighter. Dear Lorelay, don’t stop!
By now, anybody who has anything to do with junior tennis in Nigeria must be extremely familiar with this name. Not only is her name interesting, this player also has an endearing personality.
Beyond the name and personality, though, is the fighter, the winner and the ever-winning youngster.
If Mofifun has a place where she keeps her trophies, by now, she must have expanded the space because she was on a trophy winning streak in 2023. And she is just 10 years old!
She was the star of many competitions, and regardless of the opposition, the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club player put up virtuoso performances.
While it may have been unprecedented, Mofifun’s 2023 may have been the year when she matured from being a fragile tennis player into a beast on the court whose opponents will start getting wary of.
Our Canada export on this list deserves her flowers for what she gave us in the year 2023. Alongside her coach, Kayode Savage, this young player ‘peppered’ us with beautiful tennis.
For some of that age to have mastered the art of playing tennis is the stuff dreams are made of. And despite her frailty on the court when she’s losing, you don’t want to come up against her.
Out of the blue, she formed a rivalry with Mofifun, and this rivalry blossomed until she left Nigeria for the Aliassime Academy in Canada a few months ago.
Roses are red, Violets are blue, but if this player continues like this, it will not be too long before she becomes unbeatable.
In the outgoing year, this girl’s name rested on many people’s lips, and even though her trophy cabinet may not have been as full as she would have loved, she still had a number of tournament wins.
Joel is not being talked about enough, and we cannot tell exactly why, because this young man is well deserving of his flowers.
In the past few months, there has hardly been any competition which didn’t feel the intensity of this Lagos boy’s ability.
But his reserved nature off the court is the most likely reason he is not being peddled as his other colleagues.
He was recently among the Nigerian boys who went to Morocco, to teach the rest of Africa some ‘made in Naija’ tennis lessons and has been consistent at tournaments all year round.
In what can be called the icing on the cake for this young man, he was rightly adjudged the Most Improved Player (MIP) at the recently-held Chevron Junior Tennis Masters event in Lagos.
This accolade was surely a testament to the fact that he not only gave his opponents a run for their money, he was noticed for his outstanding performance on the court.
One thing you cannot take away from Ndidi is her tennis ability on the court. If you have been to her training sessions before, you’ll understand better.
Asides her ability on and off the court, though, this tennis-loving player did something not many Nigerian players would have attempted. She represented Nigeria in far away Angola, and did not return empty-handed.
She was tagged “The Solo Champion” on her return from the competition which she executed despite nursing a niggling injury at the time.
And at the beginning of the year, she was part of an all-conquering team Nigeria to Togo, where Nigeria showed her opponents ‘premium shege’.
If there is anybody who should make this list, it has to be this GEUF Tennis Academy player. She definitely grew and ‘shocked’ us in 2023.
She started the year by representing Nigeria at an international tournament for the very first time, and she did not return empty handed.
Before she left, she had noted her anxiety and how she felt nervous about going for the competition. However, the moment she got into real match situation, Etoro became unstoppable.
Afterwards, she won the CBN Junior Open in Lagos, as well as the outstanding player of the tournament award.
If you check this girl’s trajectory in barely two years, then you’ll realize how much she has grown within the past few months.
One of the biggest shocks of the outgoing year is Khadijat. This girl truly turned the tables this year to win her first ever senior national title.
Her talent has never been in doubt as she has always proven during every competition that she has what it takes to stand neck-to-neck with the very best players out there.
However, starting out the Dala Hard Court Tennis Championship as a Wild Card entrant and upsetting top players en route to winning the tournament was hugely unprecedented.
Even though Khadijat already gave tennis followers a glimpse of what to expect from her when she joined other young players to conquer West/Central Africa in Togo, not many knew she was this ready.
There were other moments in the year where she showed her brilliance and ingenuity, but winning the highly coveted Dala tournament overshadows them all.
She truly shone like a million stars in the year 2023.
If Duby as this 12-year-old boy prayed at the beginning of the year, to totally dominate junior tennis in Nigeria, then it is safe to say his prayer was answered, even beyond his requests.
Because, not only did he dominate tennis in Nigeria, he was a star within and outside the country. There are not many players who are like this young man.
It is now very rare to see this player participate in any championship without as much as giving him a chance to win the tournament.
This young man went to Egypt, participated in the Pharaoh’s Bowl, a tournament which attracts players from all over the world, and became the first and only Nigerian youngster ever to have played to the final of the competition.
Not only that, he was one of the two players to have participated in the finals of two different age categories (for boys) at the event.
If the tennis federation had a hall of fame for young tennis players, he could have been considered for such accolade this year.
Our Tunisia-based youngster is finally getting her flowers from Nigerian tennis followers even though her talent has always been evident.
She often looks unperturbed on the court when things don’t particularly go her way, but don’t you ever underrate Ohunene.
Courtesy of her outstanding performances over the years, the younger of the Yakubu Sisters gained scholarship to study and play tennis at the ITF High Performance Centre in Tunisia.
But before she left, she made sure she gave all her colleagues something to remember her with. She claimed two gold medals at the AJC event in Togo.
She as also in Ghana for Junior ITF evets where she was also outstanding for about two-three weeks. She deservedly rose on the Junior ITF rankings as a result of her performance.
It was also a year where the true nature of this fearless and power-playing player was made know to all.
Seun Ogunsakin’s story has to be the most intriguing in the year 2023, by a mile.
First, like Ohunene, he gained scholarship to study and play tennis at the ITF High Performance Centre in Tunisia, and that almost certainly changed a lot for him.
But what shook the entire country the most was how he became the number one U-14 player in the whole of Africa and held on to it till this moment.
In fact, as at the time of filing this report, the second person on the rankings will need more than 1000 points to catch up with the Nigerian wonderkid.
On the back of his amazing feat, he was given a wild card to participate in the Junior Wimbledon, Roland Garros, Euro Tour as well as the Orange Bowl Tennis Championship.
He is currently in Miami, USA, for the Orange Bowl event which is considered an ‘initiation’ rite for future world champions.
Not since when Oyinlomo Quadre burst into the top 100 in the world has Nigerian tennis witnessed this kind of buzz around a player.
2023 was certainly the year when many of our young players started showing how fantastic they are, and the fruits are there for all to see.
Which player do you think should have been added? Please, share with us in the comment section.