The performances of Nigerian players at the recently concluded Governor’s Cup Lagos were described as being abysmal and below standard for a nation hosting such an amazing ITF-approved pro-circuit.
No Nigerian player made it beyond the second round of the tournament serving the whole of West and Central African, in spite of the expected rise in their fitness level (which the NCC Tennis League was expected to provide). But this does not particularly mean that the players were terrible against their opponents.
According to the head of Nigeria Tennis Federation, NTF’s technical department, Coach Rotimi Akinloye, “the players put in their best and played up to their performance and preparation level” therefore it was not a disgraceful loss across two weeks.
|Bulus was one of the best Nigerian performers at the recently-concluded Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship.
Nigerian Tennis Live therefore x-rays the performances of five of the Nigerian stars with a view to showing what they did well and what they need to improve on.
Even though she was participating in her first-ever ITF pro-circuit as a wild card entrant, the South Africa-based youngster proved that she deserves to be among the best junior female tennis players in Nigeria in her first match.
Pitted against Ayla Aksu, the tournament’s number two seed in the fist round of the Main Draws, Adetunji held her own and showed a high level of confidence as she forced the Turkish player to make some mistakes and pile the pressure on her; something that has been missing when Nigerian ladies play against their foreign counterparts.
|Adetunji felt disappointed after losing a match in which she put in a lot of efforts.
The junior ITF circuit winner in Benin Republic a few weeks ago ended up losing 6-4, 6-0 to the quarter finalist, but with her heads up high and hope for a better participation in subsequent tournaments.
In the second leg, she stood no chance against Isreal’s Deniz Khazaniuk, losing in straight sets of 6-1, 6-1, but in the match, she showed that she has come of age to participate in more ITF circuits, especially in the senior cadre.
The former Nigerian number one player had been tipped in 2014, to be among the top 500 players in the world after almost ripping apart India’s Nedunchezhiyan Jeevan inside the centre court of the Lagos Lawn Tennis Court and repeated.
The Indian boasted that in 2014 and in 2015, Enosoregbe was Nigeria’s best player and one to beat on his day; the former NPA Open winner still showed flashes of his brilliance at the 2017 edition of the pro-ITF circuit.
The 2016 quarterfinalist was the only Nigerian player that ‘strolled’ into the Main Draws of the tournament, but he lost the first matches in both legs in straight sets. However, the caliber of players he lost to and the results speaks volume of how much he put into the game.
|Enosoregbe is an amazing one-hand back hand player whose forehand is also deadly.
In the second leg, the Edo-born one hand back hand faced Pedja Krstin, the number three seed who eventually won the tournament, and gave the Serb a tough time before bowing out in a 6-3, 6-2 game.
His performances may have dropped badly in the past few years, but Enosoregbe was one of Nigeria’s better performers at this year’s tournament and he remains one of the most gifted players in Nigeria, even though age may have started telling on him.
Regarded as one of the best female tennis talents to come out of Nigeria and West Africa, this young player stormed to the top 400 rankings in 2016, when she won the ITF junior circuit across three legs, setting an unprecedented record in the junior tournament.
Her consistency on the court earned her a wild card among the Nigerian juniors and she promised the organisers of the pro-circuit a good performance, whether she wins or loses; she fulfilled that promise already.
In her baptism of fire at the Governor’s Cup, the draws put her up against Brenda Njuki, an unknown Swede who lost in the second round, and the youngster did not allow any form of intimidation in the game, even though she eventually lost 6-2, 6-0.
|Quadre is fast coming of age, it may not be too long before she becomes Nigeria and Africa’s number one female tennis player.
But in the second week, Quadre noted categorically that in her match against Harmony Tan, the number five seed from France, she was beginning to feel that she could win even though she was down.
The first set was a tough match for Tan, ranked 346 in the world, as she could not easily do away with Quadre who made her more experienced opponent commit several errors in their match but bowed out in the second set.
The Nigerian youngster has set her sights on playing more ITF Futures in Senegal and Benin Republic before the end of the year, as she hopes to build on the tempo from the Futures 4 and 5 in Lagos.
Not many Nigerians would have heard or known about this young man before he made it to the quarter finals of the CBN Senior Open in 2017, where he lost to eventual finalist, Joseph Imeh and made a statement ever since.
He followed this up by improving with each week of the three-legged Junior ITF Circuit in Benin Republic and Togo, as he won the final leg of the boy’s singles and lost in the doubles, moving up in the ranking to about 400 in the world.
With the mental toughness and experience he had gathered across three legs, Bulus got into the Main Draws of the Governor’s Cup with the Wild Card the organisers gave him and a few other young players, and was by far Nigeria’s best performer in the first leg.
|His consistency at the recent junior ITF circuit in Benin Republic and Togo ensured that Bulus ended the pro-circuit in Lagos as an outstanding player.
He met a tough player in Alexis Klegou in the first leg and proved to the Beninoise that he was no push over even if he was still in the junior cadre. Bulus fought hard and made sure the gap between them was not obvious as he lost 4-6, 5-7.
In the second week, the ACES Tennis Academy player proved that his first leg performance was no fluke as he proved just how tough he is as a player, losing 4-6, 4-6 to Thomas Setodji from France. It was a clear pointer to the fact that Bulus is not just one of the best juniors around, but by miles, one of the most improved Nigerian players.
He would have topped this list as the best Nigerian player at the Governor’s Cup but lost that post to another player who has been outstanding all year.
As a fast rising senior player, Imeh lost his cool in the semis of the Ekiti All Nigeria Tennis Open in 2014, when he allowed the antics of Thomas Otu, a former national champion, get at him and he smashed his rackets in the process.
After that tournament, the winner of the ITF junior circuits in Benin Republic at the time told our correspondent that he was a better player, stating that he had learnt from all the mistakes which he noted made him stronger.
Three years later, the player formerly under the tutelage of Coach Abel Ubiebi, had already played in the final of the CBN Open, and propelled his Team Muller in the NCC Tennis League to the semis of the N23million prize money tournament.
|The defining moment of Imeh’s year yet, the year may end better for him, though.
He has also gone ahead to represent Nigeria at the Davis Cup alongside Sylvester Emmanuel, Clifford Enosoregbe and Abdulmumin Babalola, where Nigeria placed fourth after some promising performances.
Since his loss to Babalola, Imeh had defeated the former national champion in two consecutive games, the second being the qualifying series of the 2017 Governor’s Cup, from which level he advanced to the Main Draws.
In the first leg of the ITF pro-circuit, Imeh retired in the game after losing the first set 1-6 to Ilija Vucic, but showed his class in the second leg where he knocked out a finalist in the first leg, Stephan Fransen in the final set.
The Nigerian player could not advance beyond the second leg of the tournament, but that win was just the icing on the cake in a year where many more surprises could yet be sprung with the other tournaments expected towards the end of the year.