The 2015 All Africa Games serves off this month and Nigeria will be leading the charge for another great medals haul.
Our major focus here is how Nigerian tennis will fare at the quadrennial event.
At the last games, Nigeria won gold and silver medals in the doubles event; Shehu Lawal, Candy Idoko, Onyeka Mbanu and Clifford Enosoregbe were all in the category.
Enosoregbe and young Mbanu combined to defeat Lawal/Idoko partnership.
Of those four players, ONLY Enosoregbe has been consistent enough to stage a return to the African ‘Olympics’.
|L-R: Candy Idoko, Clifford Enosoregbe, Onyeka Mbanu and Shehu Lawal at the last All Africa Games in Maputo|
Can he come up with a repeat of his feat four years ago again?
Naija Tennis Special presents a comprehensive list of players who have travelled to Congo for the all-important tournament with respected tennis coah, Rotimi Akinloye.
Clifford Enosoregbe- Nigeria’s number one player, who has been in good form for the past two years, is deservedly one of the players to hoist Nigeria’s flag at the All Africa Games in Congo.
He won a gold medal for Nigeria at the last AAG in Maputo, where he partnered Onyeka Mbanu (another fine former junior player, who has been injury-plagued) to defeat veteran Shehu Lawal and doubles partner, Candy Idoko in an all-Nigeria final.
|Clifford Enosoregbe at the Tombim Abuja Open tournament in Abuja early this year. Photo: Damilare Okunola|
Enosoregbe won the inaugural NPA Open last year, as well as the Dala Hard Court tournament in Kano.
He is also one of the Nigerian players on the ATP rankings courtesy of the points he picked at the Tombim Abuja Tennis Open early this year.
Michael Moses- He burst into limelight with his never-say-die attitude at last year’s Abridged Lagos Governor’s Cup Championship, where he defeated Uganda’s number one male tennis player, Duncan Mugabe in an epic final.
|Michael Moses, after a training session at the Tombim Abuja Open earlier this year. Photo: Damilare Okunola|
Moses was also a quarter-finalist at the first leg of the Tombim Abuja Open early this year.
Right now, he is the highest placed Nigerian player on the ATP rankings and he was a losing finalist at the CBN Open early this year.
Thomas Otu- Otu is a budding star, whose impressive performance has been obvious since his Ekiti All Nigeria Tennis Open triumph last year.
He followed that performance up with his exploits at the NPA Open in Abuja and Dala Hard Court tourneys where he competed against Nigeria’s finest stars.
He capped a fine season with an impressive win over crowd favourite- Michael Moses- at the CBN Open this year.
Christian Paul- Paul is on this list because of his impressive outings for Nigeria in recent past. Although he has not translated his wealth of experience into championship-winning feats, he has been quite encouraging.
He, alongside Moses (both of the Abe Tennis Academy in Abuja), were in Egypt for about 8-11weeks last year, where they played in several tourneys.
|Christian Paul tries to return a serve in one of the matches played at the Tombim Abuja Open early this year. Photo: Damilare Okunola|
Paul, who is a National Sports Festival gold medalist, also picked up valuable points at the Tombim tournament early this yea r.
He may have joined the team to garner more experience.
Osariemen Airhunwunde- She created a huge scare at the NPA Open in Abuja last year, when she almost trashed national champion, Christie Agugbom in the final match.
Airhunwunde may not be a household name in Nigerian tennis, but she is gradually building a reputation for stealing the show from the favourites.
Elizabeth Pam- London-based Pam has suddenly grown into national stardom after formerly representing Nigeria at the Junior cadre.
|Elizabeth Pam returns a serve at a tournament in Abuja early 2014|
She only narrowly lost to Russian-born Melissa Ifidzen at the CBN Open early this year.
She has every potential to become Nigeria’s number one female tennis player in no distant future.
Sarah Adegoke- One of Nigeria’s finest female tennis players as at now, Adegoke’s fast long shots are her strong points.
The teenage sensation became Nigeria’s number one player after winning the Dala Hard Court Championship last year.
|Sarah Adegoke was a losing finalist last year’s Abridged Governor’s Cup in Lagos|
She boasts a wealth of experience, especially in the junior category.
Adegoke is expected to lead Nigeria’s charge for gold at the AAG alongside her female compatriots.
Melisa Ifidzen- The only ‘newcomer’ in Nigerian tennis, Ifidzen quickly showed the stuff she was made of when she won the CBN Open at the first try.
The Russian-born youngster represented Nigeria at an U-18 tourney, before coming up with the shocking win at the women’s final of the CBN Open.
|Russian-born Melisa Ifidzen will try to prove a point at the AAG, as a newcomer with the Nigerian contingent|
Ifidzen is highly-rated and is a hopeful for medals as the AAG kicks off in Congo this month.
Meanwhile, coach Akinloye told your number one tennis blog in Nigeria, that the team is ready to take on the rest of the continent.
Speaking with Naija Tennis Special before their departure on Monday, he said: “well, we expect a clean sweep of the medals.
“The players have practised really hard and I am sure that we will not just make up the numbers in Congo, we shall make the country proud.
“Just keep praying for us”.
Naija Tennis Special will bring you live update from the Championship as we get them.