How would you rate the recently concluded NNPC/ SNEPCo Junior Championship at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club?
Let me congratulate the organisers for the sponsorship over the years. We have discovered that from their consistent sponsorship, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the past, there was a little girl here, Mary-Love, who seemed to be dominating every junior tournament but this edition has shown that there are several other girls who are doing really well with their game.
Is there a particular player who caught your fancy?
Well, I could pick about three to five of them now that I believe can become world beaters if they can be well groomed.
|Barrister Sam Egbuchunam, President, Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, during the interview with Naija Tennis Special recently
The LLTC hosts majority of the biggest tournaments in the country, why is it always so?
To start with, there is no other part of the country where you can find such facilities as we have here. As a matter of fact, there is no other grand slam arena in West Africa and indeed Africa as a whole. They don’t have what we have here anywhere in the country. It is a big gift which has been passed down over time. This is the only place in Nigeria where you can stage an international tournament, I can boast of that. This is the home of tennis.
Is the LLTC looking at helping these fledgling players with some in-house tournaments or sponsorship to help them get better?
It is not the place of Lagos Lawn Tennis Club to stage tournaments, there has to be sponsorship from outside. We have the facilities to play the game and it is not up to us to sponsor the game again. If there are sponsors, they have the best facilities to play the game here.
How about organising in-house tournament for members’ children?
We have an in-house training programme which is being handled by the Vice-President of this club. It runs every week for children of members who care to join the training.
What is your general assessment of tennis in Nigeria?
It is impossible to discuss tennis in isolation of other sports in the country. Sports in general has diminished over the years because of inadequate preparations to handle sporting activities. If you take football, for example, since the time of Jay-Jay Okocha and Kanu Nwankwo, has there been any other world class footballer from our country of over 150 million people?
Can one conclude then, that there is no talent in tennis?
No. It is not that we don’t have talents, we just haven’t given them enough training at their tender ages. For tennis, unfortunately, it is an elite sport and the facilities for playing are not available to everybody who has the talent. We should have good tennis facilities in our schools where kids can be discovered from the age of three.
The Governor’s Cup may not hold this year for fear of Ebola spread. What do you think this means to our tennis?
It is unfortunate that we may not play the tournament this year. Let us just hope that if it doesn’t happen this year, we will be able to continue from where we stopped last year in subsequent years and build on the momentum.