Top Nigerian tennis star, Bolaji Olawepo, has been in the United Arab Emirates where he has been undergoing training at the Clarke Francis Tennis Academy. The player turned coach has been there for about two consecutive years, and has in the course of his stay, bagged international recognition for his meritorious service to the academy.
During a recent visit to Nigeria, Naija Tennis Special correspondent caught up with him and had a brief interview with him.
Banty, as the tennis player is fondly called by close friends and associates, expressed serious worries about tennis in Nigeria and what he thinks Nigerian tennis players should add to their games. He also spared a word or two for the federation.
How has it been for you since you left Nigeria for Dubai?
It’s been good, everything has been going on fine for me. And we’ve been doing what we know to do best. We thank God for today, especially that we are still very much alive while giving it our best shot out there.
How many more years do you have on your deal with the Academy?
It is actually up to you how long you want to work there, because right now, it depends on how you are making it there. This will determine how long you can stay there. For me, I am enjoying it there and I feel like I can still stay more for maybe two years.
|The man fondly called Banty poses with world tennis star, Novac Djokovic in Dubai.|
Since you left Nigeria, has there been any difference?
Sure, a lot of difference. As you can see me; mentally, physically, spiritually, financially… I mean, compared to when I was here. There’s a lot of difference, to be very honest.
How about with Nigerian tennis?
Well… that’s a big question, though. If you want to talk about Nigerian tennis, we won’t finish today. You’ll keep talking till tomorrow because a lot of things are on the other side. Now we’ve got a lot of talents coming up, but there are no tournaments to keep these guys in proper shape. Even the (former) president did not help the players in terms of tournaments.
No tournaments, no sponsorship, nothing… just nothing. Now, after the CBN Open, the next tournament the players will participate in is the Dala Hard Court in December and after that, there’s practically nothing else for national players? This is really sad!
My advice to tennis players is that they should have other professions they are doing alongside the tennis they are playing, rather than concentrate fully on tennis, especially in our country where you play two tournaments in a year. That’s (sorry)… bull sh*t!
Can you list a few things you have learnt since you left Nigeria?
I have learnt a lot of things since I left Nigeria, truly. I have been opportune to meet with these foreign players; the likes of Federer, Murray, Djokovic among others. I have also been opportune to take part in some coaching courses which have added to what I used to know and have put me in places I never thought I would have been. So… a lot!
|Bolaji poses with top British tennis star, Andy Murray and Kehimde Alade at the tennis academy.|
What are you hoping to achieve in the nearest future?
Well… let me just say this one thing; my plan is to start up my own tennis academy, may be in four years. So, all I am doing presently is to basically build up myself. To build up the name, Bolaji Olawepo, and a few other things. I also want to keep working on myself, to make the financial aspect very strong. I don’t want to start by scouting for sponsorship. These are basically my plans for the future.
I just want to get things done by myself, even if I go into some kind of sports business tomorrow, I want to be able to stand on my own and not rely on anybody for any form of sponsorship. You know how things are in this country na.