Junior tennis sensation, Marylove Edwards shone like a million Stars and got a standing ovation Tuesday when she took on former national champion, Blessing Samuel, in the opening round robin match of the Rainoil Ikoyi Tennis Masters.
The petit future tennis great, fresh from the West And Central African Junior Tennis Championships, was beaten 6-1, 6-1 on the centre court but the scores did not reflect the intensity and closeness of the tie as most of the games went to deuces.
The difference was ‘experience’ as Marylove went for big winners on key points when a basic placement could have won her the point while Samuel mixed up her shots and played safe at crucial moments.
|Marylove Edwards was fantastic in her opening match at the Rainoil Ikoyi Masters.|
“I was surprised at how mobile and consistent Marylove was,” said Samuel.
“I had to be at my best because I would not like to have it said that a former champion was beaten by a junior player at the Masters.”
In other ladies’ matches, national champion Christie Agugbom dismissed Pauline Ebijimi 6-0, 6-1; Sarah Adegoke beat Patience Enobamhoin 6-1, 6-2; while second seed, Aanu Ayegbusi recovered from one set and 2-0 down to beat Ronke Akingbade 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.
In the men’s matches, Christian Paul who got in because Henry Atseye gave up his place to compensate him for his heroic performance in the NCC Tennis League finals, made good use of his chance by beating Emmanuel Sunday 6-3, 6-1. Atseye was captain of the Tombim team which won the NCC Cup.
Shehu Lawal who, in a rare show of nationalism, had also conceded his place to Joseph Imeh, a younger player, got back into the draw when Nonso Madueke, an undergraduate at the University of Port Harcourt, withdrew to attend to registration issues.
Shehu, runner-up in the inaugural event last year, went on to lose a close match to Moses Michael 7-6, 6-4.
In a match between the current No.1, Thomas Otu and Babalola Abdulmumuni, a former champion, Otu won 6-3, 6-3 to progress.
Clifford Enosoregbe, the former number one player, beat Madueke 6-0, 6-4 which means Joseph Imeh will start with a one match deficit when he steps on court Wednesday as the alternate.
Reacting to the willingness of the senior players to concede their places to the younger generation, Godwin Kienka, director of the International Tennis Academy who is coordinating the event, said: “It was very touching, and this is the kind of selflessness that would make Nigeria great.
“Our leaders especially those in sports who want to cash in at a very opportunity and only seek to sabotage opportunities for our young sports men and women if they do not benefit directly, should do well to learn from these examples.”
The Rainoil Ikoyi Club Masters is offering a total prize money of over one million with N250, 000 each to the winners, men and ladies as well as bonuses for round robin matches won.
According to the organisers, matches are scheduled to start at 5 pm each day to give workers and other spectators the opportunity to see the best of Nigerian tennis on parade.