Seven Players That Shocked Nigerian Tennis Followers In 2023
The 2023 tennis season served tennis followers in Nigeria with a lot of good moments, but more importantly, moments that brought us to our feet.
Both locally and internationally, Nigerian players showed the world the advantages of our population – excelling at whatever we set our sights on.
With or without adequate preparations, our players made sure they shone brightly everywhere they found themselves and this is why we have selected seven of them for special mentions today.
For those who followed tennis in 2023, one name that constantly rang a bell was Daniel Adeleye. While he just did not burst into people’s faces, he became really consistent this year.
The issue with this guy, is that he is a very consistent tennis player. He has been extremely consistent within and outside Nigeria.
His participation in senior national tournaments have not been as productive, though, but such was his consistency that Abubakar Yusuf, a semifinalist at the recently concluded Dala hard Court championship, predicted a final appearance for him.
The only Nigerian player who is above above Daniel on the ITF rankings is David Ekpenyong, and that goes to show you how much he grew in 2023.
In 2023, this young man won three ITF Titles to reach his highest ever ranking spot of 471 in the world, breaking into the top 500, and might just end the year within the top 500 players of world junior tennis.
Divine Dassam Nweke
It is almost impossible to forget this Denmark-based tennis player who was a pride in Nigeria’s Billie-Jean King Cup team earlier this year.
Not only was she an integral part of the team, she earned the nickname ‘Divine the Destroyer’ Nweke, for how she dispatched her opponents during their matches.
She was so good that a US-based College Coach asked about her, to give her express scholarship following her stellar performances at the competition.
“Hey. What’s the status of Divine?” the coach had asked Nigeria Tennis Live to know if the player was interested in a scholarship, but it turned out that she was not so keen on it.
So, Atseye is already supposed to be in the category of those who should be described as a Nigerian tennis legend.
Without a doubt, he has been one of the exemplary players on the Nigerian tennis circuit. No improper conduct, minds his business and plays when he can.
For those who can remember, Atseye has also taken courses on officiating and was almost returning to school some years ago, such was his dedication and passion to what he does.
But what the Abuja-based player did this year – sticking out his neck and beating the rampaging younger players to win the Dala Championship – remains a surprise to many.
Those who have watched him closely know that he is the slice master of tennis in Nigeria and the younger players always hate to play against him.
At a time when it was increasingly appearing like the year for the youngsters to take the baton finally, Atseye stood head and shoulders above others to nick his first ever Dala Hard Court Championship in grand style. What a player!
And with this result, he ends the year as Nigeria’s number two ranked player on the national rankings released by the tennis federation.
There’s literally nothing Marylove does that surprises many people anymore, so, they may have thought that it was a fluke to have added her to this list.
However, while it is always believed that getting to the top is a huge task, the bigger task is maintaining the top position.
Edwards made sure she won every national tournament she participated in, facing different opponents in the finale, and adjusting to play against different players.
More amazing, however, is the fact that she played one of the national events while being seriously ill. She needed extensive medical attention to be able to play some of the national tournaments in Abuja, and she still delivered.
Her outstanding performance on the national scene eventually earned her a spot on the Billie-Jean King Cup team that made Nigeria proud in Kenya.
Even though she did not get to play a single match, her participation was enough reward for her consistency at the top of Nigerian tennis. And despite the fact that she now plays in the US, she is still Nigeria’s number one female tennis player.
Ekpenyong, aka Mr. Lanky has to be odds-on favourite for Nigeria’s revelation of the year award. Because he has undoubtedly had a fantastic year.
In what started like child’s play, this Nigerian teenager copped four ITF Titles in the year under review alone – one J30, two J60 and one J100.
He followed these up by also reaching the final of a J100 event in Canada at the first time of calling, and even played a J300 competition in Mexico afterwards, a feat not many Nigerians would have been able to boast of.
Out of the blue, Ekpenyong rose to become Nigeria’s number one male tennis player, as he doggedly outplayed his Doubles Partner, Uche Oparaoji.
Those who watched him play at the Davis Cup, where Nigeria qualified for the Group III after it had been elusive for years, testified to his immense abilities, despite losing one of the key matches.
He was also described as a ‘raw gold’ by one of Nigeria’s top coaches, who believes that a lot of investments need to be made on the player who is still Under 18.
In 2023, he was one of Nigeria’s best players, and even though all his talents had been there for all to see, he definitely showed everybody that there was more to him than winning junior tournaments.
Most people who are not so familiar with doings in Nigerian tennis have formed a forgivable opinion about Quadre, that she is the only Nigerian tennis player out there.
Nobody can blame them, though, because she has put Nigeria’s name on the map globally too many times, and just when one believes she may be cooling off, she springs yet another surprise on us all.
Even her colleagues at the Florida International University will be wondering what kind of person this talented Nigerian tennis superstar is. She just keeps giving sweetness, as her name implies.
But how do you expect people to treat a player who emerged as the Conference USA Player of the Year as well as Freshman of the Year, a feat that had never been achieved by anyone in her school before? Just how?
She has never rested on her oars, this lady, as she was also recently adjudged player of the month in her institution.
Beyond all of these, have you checked Quadre’s record at the Billie-Jean King Cup competition? She was exceptional at the last event in Kenya, and lost only one match all week, to Yasmine Kabbaj, a very familiar foe.
Nigerians will be buzzing for the player who is now expected to start competing in and winning WTA events in 2024 as she continues to make headlines in the United States of America where, as at the last time we checked, she was ranked 65.
As things stand in Nigeria, right now, Bulus is unarguably the country’s highest-placed player on the ATP. Scratch that, he’s the ONLY Nigerian on the ATP Rankings.
His moves have been extremely quiet, this young man, but he makes bold statements and big moves when he does.
After playing College Tennis, he has been playing his tennis in the United States, where he has continued to grow. But one of the biggest impressions he left on Nigerians in 2023 was how he galvanized the Davis Cup team to victory.
At a time when it appeared like qualification for the elusive Group III was going down the drain, Bulus put up a virtuoso performance in Kigali, and lifted team Nigeria.
Even though this was a team sport, this man was on hand to make it count with his sheer brilliance, alongside Wilson Igbinovia.
Because of Bulus, also, Nigeria can boldly say she has a player in the ATP Rankings, and this, he achieved, all by himself and his team of tennis tutors and coaches.
Beyond the exploits of these players in 2023, Nigerians will be looking for a way to build on these and see to it that the excellence does not recede whatsoever.
Here’s our list of players who shocked Nigerian tennis followers in 2023, who do you think was left out, and who should not have made the list?
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