|Clifford Enosoregbe, Nigeria’s number one male tennis player
|Emmanuel Idoko, the fast rising junior player
Tennis has a relatively minimal followership in Nigeria. Perhaps because it is an elite sport which is also capital intensive.
And the lull being experienced in the racquet games reached an all-time low in the last two years, as the major tournaments in the country were reduced to a paltry three; the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Open in Lagos, The Lagos Governor’s Cup Tennis Championship and the Dala Hard Court Tourney in Kano.
Notable among the missing tournaments is the Port-Harcourt Open which was almost single-handedly sponsored by late Tonye Harry, former speaker of the Rivers state government.
His demise created a gap in Nigerian tennis which nobody has bothered to fill up.
The players are always cursing their hard luck for being in a country such as Nigeria, where their sport is only recognised by the administrators and the actors themselves.
However, this year has opened a new chapter for the sport in Nigeria as the players have already had three National tournaments(CBN Open, Ekiti Open and Governor’s Cup) prior to the Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA National Tennis Open which made its debut in Abuja.
In fact, the players are in Kano for the Dala Hard Court Championship and the Ikoyi Tennis Masters slated for mid-December.
This is a development which has been lauded by the players who had hitherto clamoured for tournaments all year round to enable them remain relevant in the game of tennis.
They maintained that it will keep them on their feet as well as keep them fit ahead of international Circuits such as the Lagos Governor’s Cup.
“It is a really good one for the players, if I must say the truth. Because this is exactly what we have been clamouring for.
“Moving from Lagos to Abuja for the NPA Open and then to Kano for the Dala Tourney and back to Lagos for the Masters is quite impressive. But, we also hope this continues for long,” Clifford Enosoregbe, Nigeria’s number one male tennis player offered.
Speaking in the same vein is Sarah Adegoke, the teenage star who presently occupies the number one spot in the female cadre of Nigerian tennis.
According to her, “Well, I particularly like it because I trained most times without a tournament to display some of the things that I learnt during training.
“My desire is to see it grow beyond its present status where we will have a tournament to play every month or even every week.”
Also excited by the new trend is Scribe of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, NTF, Mrs. Gloria Ekwempu, who is most appreciative of the sponsors’ efforts to ensure these tournaments go as planned.
She noted that, “honestly, this is really good for our tennis. For the players to have about four Championships in a row to participate in, is quite massive.
“If we can maintain this tempo and possibly add other tournaments, then our players will be able to meet up with their other colleagues on the continent.
“It will also make them feel relevant in the sport because if they are not playing tournaments, there is nothing which will identify them as tennis players. We are ever grateful to our sponsors for helping out with the tournaments.”
This new development has only seen the light of the day for one year. But, it has to be sustained for the next ten years (at least) before returns on the ‘investments’ can be visible enough.