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Lagos Governor’s Cup: The Tougher, The Better…

Damilare Okunola

Agility, mobility, hard shots, fast long balls, great serves, deadly backhand, are among other skills that differentiate great tennis players. These have not been absent at this year’s Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship rather, those skills have set the tone for a more difficult tournament for the battling Champions from all over the world.
When Russia’s Nina Bratchikova registered for the tournament last year, she was 250 on the ATP rankings and was the number one seeded player(this has been the case for some time), but in Slovenia’s Tadeja Majeric, ranked 125 in the world, she has a more fierce opposition this year and could only settle for the number two seed even though she is 133 in the world presently.
The Russian star believes that the competition has improved in terms of quality since the first time she came to Nigeria for the International Tennis Federation-ITF rated Championship.
Bratchikova who only last year said that she cannot become World’s number one female tennis player, confessed that one has to be consistent and work harder if one must win anything this time around as she was bundled out in the second round by Italy’s Barbieri Giola.
“Honestly, I think the competition has gotten stiffer since the first time I came here. It used to be strong but I think it just got tougher and one cannot say who wins a game or not.
“Bottom line is, I believe that one can’t win this Championship again without putting extra effort and that is what I have been trying to do; to step up my game and put in a real fight with other girls. Hopefully, something good can come out from it” the 2013 Women’s Doubles winner of the tourney offered.
For South Africa’s Ruan Roelofse, who is fast winning Lagos fans to himself with some eye-catching  performances, it has been four years of ‘increased hard work and fight’.
Roelofse lost to World number one Junior tennis player, Borna Coric in the semis of the first leg but believes that he can still work his way to the final of the competition through consistency and hard work on the court.
According to him,”I’ve been coming here for the past four years and I can boldly say that the tournament gets tougher each year and one just has to keep fighting.
“Most times, you don’t get to know how strong the opposition is until you meet him on the court. It has been four years of increased hard work and serious fight for me here in Lagos but I like it because it makes me stronger. I will try to work on my consistency on the court as well, I think that would help.
“I lost the semi final match in Futures 1 to Borna just when I thought I could have done something better. It just goes to show you that one has to work really hard to win whatsoever here”.
Veteran Nigerian player, Shehu Lawal, who made up for his first round exit in the first leg by defeating Sanni Adamu in the second leg, explained that the competition has not gotten any easier, especially from an average Nigerian player’s perspective.
The Davis Cup player noted that having about three or four of such Championships in a year will put Nigeria up there as formidable opponents for their more exposed foreign counterparts.
“The Governor’s Cup is the only ITF tournament that we have in this country and the only one that most of us participate in throughout a year” he stated.
“Most of those guys who come here are really good considering the fact that they travel around a lot. But this is tennis, where one cannot afford to be complacent so we always try as much as we can to put up a fight. If we can get about three or four of such in a year, we can surely come very close to them in terms of performance.
“The Championship is definitely more difficult to win these days, but that’s why we have foreigners to compete against; to show the true Champions’ stuff” the Nigerian number two tennis player explained.
With more top players coming to Lagos for the Championship each year, it is definitely becoming more difficult for Nigerian players to make a significant impact, but the onus lies on them to show how much they need the ‘points’ to play other ITF-rated pro-circuits.

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