Dismal is about the best word to ’employ’ to describe the performance of Nigerian players after the first leg of the Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Cub, Onikan.
As many followers of the sport would have rightly observed, the level of the players who are in Lagos for the two legs of the ITF Futures which is regarded as the biggest in West and Central Africa, especially their rankings, is not something that was achieved within one year.
During a chat prior to the commencement of the tournament, Coach Benson Ishicheli had told Nigerian Tennis Live that the players were not among the top 200 in the world for nothing, stating specifically that: “Ah! It will be hard for our players o!”
Even though the Nigerian players gave their best under the prevailing circumstances, it was not enough to make them avoid woeful defeats in the hands of their more advanced and more traveled opponents who showed sheer class all through.
|Michael Moses writhing in pains after an injury at the final of the 2016 NCC Tennis League. His Team Tombim lost to Team Offikwu. The former Nigerian number one has since moved to the United States.
Avoidable errors, clear technical disability, poor serves, weak returns, and inexplicable weakness when strength was needed the most all characterized most of the Nigerian players’ performances on the courts, with the exception of a few.
Christopher Bulus, a junior player who recently returned from an ITF Junior Circuit in Benin Republic and Togo, stood out as one Nigerian player who justified his Wild Card slot, as he gave his more experienced opponent, Klegou Alexis from Benin Republic a fight for his money.
Bulus, a quarter finalist at the CBN Senior Open, did lose his match eventually, but Klegou would have been asking himself questions like, “what if?” and how on earth he would have explained his loss to a fast rising youngster.
Engr. Ifedayo Akindoju, the President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF) has assured that he is working day and night to get sponsorship for tennis tournaments in the country and has already assured that money for about 18 junior championships was ready, but one would wonder how long he can maintain the tempo if he has to do it alone.
Indeed, one of the issues bedeviling tennis in Nigeria remains that of sponsorship, but Nigerians are quick to point accusing fingers at the administrators, stating that they are not organizing tournaments for them.
|Engr. Akindoju easts, sleeps and breathes tennis; but can he and his team do it alone?
With a lot of stakeholders watching closely to see and observe the anomalies in the sport, it is important to note that there are a lot that can be done if a hand of fellowship is extended to the tennis federation.
Engr. Akindoju had once said: “We can organise a N100,000 tournament here every week. We don’t always have to wait to organize expensive tournaments and give excuses of non availability of the huge funds for sponsorship.”
Karim Mohamed-Maamoun, the Egyptian player who was seeded 1 for the Futures 4 in Lagos, accrued most of his ranking points while playing pro-circuits in Egypt, the same goes for Cem Ilkel, the number two seed Turkish who has been another amazing player at the tournament; he played most of the Futures in Turkey and is a better player for it.
It is not arguable that the amount needed for the sponsorship of a local championship is nothing compared to the requirements for an ITF Circuit, but is nit not better for us to start somewhere?
The NCC Tennis League in the country is helping the players with a high level of fitness and competitive mentality, and that is one of the things that is required for serious competitions. Maybe the League can metamorphose into something bigger in the nearest future.
If Nigerian tennis players must get up there against their opponents and give the country something to cheer about, they have to do something, the federation has to sit tight and address their challenges, and sponsors, corporate bodies have to wake up to their responsibilities of giving back to the society.