Edmond Ajoge is one of the sponsors of the three-legged ITF Futures currently going on in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital.
Ajoge single-handedly sponsored the first-ever Tombim Abuja Open in 2015, where he told Naija Tennis Special in an exclusive chat that he would really work hard to ensure that the number of ITF Futures in the country rises from the paltry two legs to more than six in a year.
|Sylvester Emmanuel represents an opportunity for a Nigerian player to win the elusive ITF circuit on home soil.|
Fast forward two years and he has been joined by the Dayak and GSL Open tournaments which he says are not even enough if Nigerian players must hit top form and compete against their more experienced foreign counterparts.
In this exclusive interview with Naija Tennis Special, Mr. Edmond says although he has not been particularly happy with the performance of Nigerian players over the years, he believes maybe if a Nigerian wins it, others may be motivated.
|Sponsor of the Tombim Abuja Open, Edmond Ajoge (2nd left) and sponsor of the GSL Open, Bayo Okusanya (3rd from left), posing with their partners during the ongoing tournament. Photo: Ewaoche Ameh.|
Three years on the bounce, how would you rate this edition of the tournament?
Amazing, really amazing! The standard keeps getting better, the level of play is fantastic and the caliber of players that come in yearly keeps getting better. We also have a very good set of players who always give in their best at all times. Ultimately, we are getting better and each year can simply become even better.
How would you compare this year’s edition of the tournament to that of last year?
To be honest, it would be difficult to compare two different tournaments because that is what they are. Truth is, the players here this year are quite different from those who were here last year, so it is pretty difficult to say something happened in a year that wasn’t in the previous or the other way round.
|Mr. Ajoge and Barrister Ikani Agabi (tournament director) have formed a formidable team that will take Nigerian tennis to the next level. Photo: Ewaoche Ameh.|
Are you particularly disappointed that no Nigerian has been able to win the tournament since its inception?
It is always very disappointing that no Nigerian has won the Futures since we started because that was the primary goal – to have world class tournaments in the country and give our players the opportunity to compete against the very best.
The ultimate goal is to get our own players as high as possible but most of them were booted out in the first round.
|Although they have been disappointing recently, Christian Paul has been able to qualify for the next round of the Dayak Open. Photo: Ewaoche Ameh.|
Hopefully, the Dayak Championship will be a different ball game entirely since the number one seed is a Nigerian although he is competing as a French citizen here. If he gets to win, maybe it will encourage others to know and believe that it is possible for a Nigerian to actually win an ITF Futures.
Going forward, are we expecting more tournaments?
I am very positive about this. When we started, I told you that we were willing to expand the horizon and have more people who will key into our dream.
Presently, one of the things we have done is to bring down the cost of sponsorship and help people cut out some excesses. That way, many people will see the possibility in sponsoring more ITF Futures for our players.