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Player, Coach, Umpire: Mary Tenu-Michael, A Paragon Of Nigerian Tennis

Mary Tenu-Michael is (unknowingly) gradually pushing an unprecedented narrative in Nigerian tennis, and it is just out there before our eyes.

The Plateau-born Kogi State indigene is proudly wearing three caps on her beautiful head – she’s a player, a coach and an umpire, but asides those, she is also a businesswoman with each role enriching her perspective and deepening her love for tennis.

From a young age, Mary was immersed in the world of sports. “Growing up, I was a sports person,” she recalls. “I did a bit of athletics and volleyball, so when the suggestion of tennis came, I tried it. The coach felt I had a talent for the game.”

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This coach, Davou, recognized something special in Mary, igniting a spark that would grow into a lifelong dedication to tennis.

Mary’s introduction to tennis wasn’t just about the game; it was about potential meeting a ready-made opportunity.

Mary Tenu-Michael

During this interview with Nigeria Tennis Live, she opens up further: “It wasn’t about my interest being drawn to the game. I felt maybe there was something for me in tennis. I started at a very young age, so as a child, I just had an open mind.”

This openness led her to embrace tennis fully, and embark on a journey filled with both triumphs and challenges.

Mary’s career as a pro player was marked by significant accomplishments. She shone brightly in the competitive tennis landscape, despite not playing many junior tournaments.

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“I played an international & private secondary school competition in Lagos and was the runner-up. I played and won an NNPC under-18 tournament in 2005, and later on, participated in senior tournaments,” she proudly reveals.

Her accolades include winning a Gold medal in the Women’s Doubles at the Abuja National Sports Festival and a Gold medal in mixed Doubles and Bronze in Doubles at the Edo Games. She also won Doubles at the CBN Open event.

Her highest national rankings – No. 1 in doubles and 13 in singles – are a testament to her skill and determination.

After a break from tennis, a friend’s encouragement led Mary back to the sport, this time as a coach. “A friend of mine suggested coaching to me, and I gave it a chance. I did my level one in 2019 and enjoyed teaching, so coaching was more natural for me.”

Mary Tenu-Michael

This transition wasn’t just a career move; it was a healing process as she says: “Coaching is like healing for me because I teach like I was never taught. I believe tennis should be fun, exciting, patiently taught, with respect, care, and love.”

Mary’s approach to coaching is deeply personal and compassionate. According to her: “I enjoy it a lot. Having to teach people differently and helping each one learn in their own way, meeting amazing people. It’s an amazing feeling.

“Firstly, seeing the person as a human and then a player. I would like to raise champions in tennis hopefully but not players who grow to hate the sport.”

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Coaching in Nigeria comes with its unique set of challenges, and as Mary points out: “It’s not easy, I must say. I hope that coaches will be more valued here”

Despite these challenges, Mary remains optimistic about the future. She is very confident that Nigerian coaches are able to produce Grand Slam winners.

“It’s possible to produce Grand Slam winners, but it would take a lot of self-development and determination,” she says.

Mary Tenu-Michael

One of Mary’s most memorable moments is being a female coach at the African Games. “Being at the African Games as the female coach was an honor. It was an amazing experience. It taught me a lot moving forward. It’s an encouragement to me and also a motivation.”

And our correspondent at the African Games reports that this young coach was practically on her feet throughout the tournament, supporting her players through thick and thin.

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She was a huge source of inspiration for the players who needed the motivation in number as they faced the herculean task of getting past their opponents at the competition.

As she looks to the future, this tennis recently inducted umpire’s ultimate goal is clear: “I hope to raise champions in tennis someday”.

Her journey, marked by passion, perseverance, and purpose, continues to inspire those around her, proving that with dedication and love for the game, anything is possible.

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