The annual Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship presents Nigerians with one of the opportunities they do not get unless they travel outside the country.
The ITF-certified pro-circuit which offers a total prize money of about $100,000 dollars is regarded as the biggest on Central and Western Africa as it attracts players from well over 500 countries around the world.
The Futures tournament enables the Nigerian players to spar against widely traveled and experienced tennis players, and it gives them stiff competitors, but after 17 years, no Nigerian player has been able to win the championship save for Michael Moses who won abridged version in 2015.
One of the major reasons given for the players’ inability to win, even though they have come really close (making it to the quarter finals on several occasions) is that they lack adequate tournaments to prepare them for this top class competition.
|Can any of these Nigerian stars spring any surprise at this year’s Governor’s Cup Tennis Championship?|
But for three years at a stretch, Nigerian players have been exposed to regular competition in the NCC Tennis League, which many have described as the best thing to happen to Nigerian tennis in recent years.
Therefore, expectations would be high as Nigerian tennis stars file out to take on their more traveled opponents from Monday, 9 October and Nigerian Tennis Live decided to carry out a survey among top tennis stakeholders in the country, to ask if it is time for a Nigerian to finally win the championship.
For Coach Benson Ishicheli, Nigeria’s non-playing Davis Cup captain, he believes that it would be a hard nut for the players to crack, especially with the caliber of players already registered for the tournament.
“The only player I see that can go far in this tournament is Sylvester because he’s been playing Futures in Spain and even though he has not won any, he has the advantage of having played against different players on another continent.
“But then, top 200, 300 players coming here… ah! It will be hard o! The rankings of these foreign players did not come by chance. They have been playing all over the world and they have been picking points.
|Clifford Enosoregbe, Nigeria’s former number one player, will also be hoping to spring surprises at the ITF-rated pro circuit.|
This sentiment was also shared by Mr. Godwin Kienka, the director of the International Tennis Academy, organisers of the NCC Tennis League, who expressed serious doubt in the possibility of a player winning the tournament.
He noted, however, that winning the tournament is a possibility, but that it would be a pleasant surprise if any Nigerian does pull that stunt.
According to the former ITF-rated umpire: “We are not there yet. But we are not so far from there with the recent developments of the players and their consistency.
“If the draws are favourable, someone like Sylvester Emmanuel may go far in the tournament based on his recent form. But if the players can replicate their form from last year for this year’s edition, it would be fantastic.
|Joseph Imeh has had a good run in the NCC League this year and may cap it up with an outstanding performance at the Governor’s Cup.|
“And if anyone wins it, that would be a pleasant surprise.”
For Coach Abel Ubiebi, a traveled junior tennis coach and coaches’ trainer, Nigerian players have not gotten the right exposure to win such tournaments, at least not yet, a situation which he blames majorly on the absence of sponsorship for the players to perform at the highest level.
During a brief chat with Nigerian Tennis Live, Coach Abel, a certified PTR Tester, said: “This year’s tournament is actually unpredictable as far as I know but I am not sure about a Nigerian player winning in 2017. It will be quite difficult.
“Exposure takes almost 80% of players development at a point in time of their career but 99% of our players don’t have this exposure due to lack of sponsorship.”
In his own remark, Mr. Koye Sowemimo, the Head of Sports at the Temple Management Company (TMC), noted that Nigeria is yet to get to the stage where the local players will start dominating the Governor’s Cup.
|Adetayo Adetunji, one of the juniors who got a wild card to play this year’s tournament, may yet have an outside chance to go far in the tournament.|
He stated that, “We are still a long way from being able to have our local players dominate the Governors cup as our players do not play enough on the international circuit.
“We need to start seeing our players playing more regularly outside of Africa to gain further experience and exposure.”
As at the time of compiling this result, there were still doubts about the availability of Sylvester Emmanuel, Nigeria’s number one male tennis player, as he has refused to confirm his health status following a hint that he may have pulled out due to surgery.
Nigerian Tennis Live is monitoring the situation and will post updates as soon as everything gets clearer.