The 16th edition of the Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship is the highest-paying tournament in west and central Africa, and it is hosted in Nigeria.
However, the international tournament seems to be one organised by Nigerians for foreigners since none of her players has been able to clinch the coveted title since it became an International Tennis Federation (ITF) circuit.
Michael Moses, Nigeria’s current number one player, is the last Nigerian player to win the tournament, but this could only happen when the abridged version of the championship was hosted in Lagos about two years ago.
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The farthest Nigerian stars have been able to reach is the quarter final of the money-spinning event, as players either found it difficult to contain the firepower of their more experienced foreign pros, or ran out of steam to continue with the tournament (top match rustiness, perhaps).
But for the first time since the inception of the tournament, the prize money has been increased to $100,000, (which is equivalent to about N47.6million based on the prevalent exchange rate issues in the country).
The question now is, will this huge amount of money be an added motivation for the Nigerian stars to prove their mettle where it matters most? Not forgetting that the higher the prize money, the more the top-ranked players that will attend,
The NCC Tennis League which has been ongoing for about a year now has provided the players with the best avenue to consistently compete among each other, therefore, the question of match fitness may not necessarily arise.
Christian Paul has already made history as he will be the only Nigerian player to start from the Main Draw of the championship based on his ranking points, while the likes of Angel McCleod, Michael Moses, Sylvester Emmanuel, Clifford Enosoregbe among other top Nigerian stars, are expected to enter the championship with the wild card options.
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The local players are not often expected to perform better than their ‘more experienced’ and widely traveled opponents, therefore, it’s high time our tennis stars proved their critics and doubters wrong.
There is no crime for a Nigerian to win this huge amount of money, if not for any reason, to be able to stay afloat as recession bites hard in the country.
Now is the time to show to your colleagues who come here year in, year out that you are no fluke; and that more than ever, a Nigerian deserves to mount the podium as winner of the ITF tournament which Naija Tennis Special gathered, will soon metamorphose into a Challenger series.
Coach Abel Ubiebi, on of Nigeria’s more experienced coaches, during a brief chat with our correspondent in the course of the week, already informed anyone who cared to listen that his trainees need just two years to start proving their mettle at the ITF Pro Circuit.
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Oyinlomo Quadri, one of the Coach Abel’s more talented ‘students’, is already making Nigeria and Africa proud as she shot to about 430 in the world after winning gold medals over a three-legged junior tournament, while a certain Imeh Joseph – another promising youngster – is yet to totally get his acts right.
“Just give us two years, and my players will start winning the tournament,” the coach stated amid smiles,
Two years is just around the corner, coach, we expect your players (especially Oyinlomo) to have started ruling the world before then.
Come October 8-22, the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan Lagos, will be a Mecca of sorts as everyone who has anything to do with tennis in Nigeria will be on ground to watch world-class tennis action, and hopefully, we shall get to see a Nigerian mount the podium at the end of the two-week event.