The expectations of Nigerian tennis followers that one of the local stars would successfully go beyond the quarterfinal of the ongoing Lagos Open International Tennis Championship faded almost immediately after it began.
This was majorly due to the inability of the Nigerian players to match the competitive prowess of their opponents, some of whom have played a minimum of 20 competitions before storming Lagos for the World Tour event.
But the Nigerians, by virtue of their preparation and rankings, did not perform woefully against the foreign players for the short period they featured in the competition.
Out of the flurry of local stars who made it to the main draw, only four progressed to the second round, mostly at the expense of fellow Nigerian opponents, but the hurdle was too high for them when it mattered the most.
Their foreign counterparts ensured that for the umpteenth time, all the Nigerians lost the race for a quarterfinal place.
In spite of the seemingly unpleasant results, however, about three Nigerian players proved to the foreign stars that they’re no pushovers.
Nigeria Tennis Live highlights the performance of these players:
Emmanuel Jebutu: The promising youngster has had a year filled with fairly good results, having traveled to Togo and Benin Republic for Junior ITF circuits.
He did not make it beyond the semis in the doubles and lost out in the singles quarterfinal, but he was consistently playing against some of the tough junior players on the tour.
Ranked 1536 in the world juniors, Jebutu made a grand entry into professional tennis when he crushed his Indian opponent in the first round of the qualifying series in two straight sets.
Even though he lost the second qualifying match to vastly experienced Sylvester Emmanuel, Nigeria’s number one male tennis player, Jebutu caused him a lot of problems during the encounter.
The 15-year-old believes he can comfortably compete against the big boys if he gets to play more against tough oppositions on the circuit.
Oyinlomo Quadre: By far the most popular Nigerian female tennis player at the moment, Quadre had carried the burden of saving Nigerian female tennis from being embarrassed on home soil.
During pre-tournament interviews, she had promised to make Nigeria and Nigerians proud by fighting, breathing and catching fun on the court, and she hardly disappointed.
For the African number four junior starlet, the first match in the main draw seemed like a stroll in the park, even though she was up against a senior national player.
But the reigning CBN champion met a stiffer opposition in the second round – a world number 499 ranked player and tournament’s number five seed.
Quadre, Nigeria’s number three ranked female tennis player, faced her opponent as she would every other player, and bossed the first set with a 6-2 win, but the second set was beyond her.
She tried to rally in the final set to ensure a quarterfinal place, but her opponent showed who the boss was, and rightfully dispatched the talented Nigerian.
Riya Bhatia, the Indian opposition, would later describe Quadre as a “really good player who gave me a tough match.”
Emmanuel Idoko: When the NTF announced him as one of the players to represent the country at the Davis Cup competition in Kenya a few months ago, all hell was let loose, tennis followers faulted the list.
And when they went to Kenya, the former Chevron juniors champion did little or nothing to justify his inclusion in the team. Team Nigeria got relegated to Group IV.
Mindless of the Davis Cup result, Idoko still got a wild card slot to play in the main draw of the World Tour event in Lagos, and the draw for the second round pitted him against the tournament’s number one seed – end of the road, many had thought.
But even though it was truly the end of the road for him, the lanky, dark-skinned double-handed back hand player put up a fiery fight against the Tunisian star, racing to a 3-1 lead in the first set of the game.
He caused his opponent a lot of troubles, but lacked the cutting edge to kill the game. His opponent won in two straight sets, but Idoko has done enough to prove that he was not a walkover on the circuit.
The Nigerian players will hope to bounce back from the disappointment of losing out early in first round when the second round of matches kick off next week.