Nigeria’s youngsters will this weekend travel to Togo and the Republic of Benin to compete with their counterparts from other parts of the world in an ITF 18 & Under championship. The tournament is billed to hold across three legs and top Nigerian junior players including the likes of Oyinlomo Barakat, Michael Osewa, Adetayo Adetunji, Angel McCleod, Christopher Bulus, Ayoola Michael, Martins Abamu, among others, will be representing the country.
For the past one week, Coaches Ubale Mohammed and Abel Ubiebi – two of Nigeria’s most resourceful junior tutors – have been drilling these players to ensure that their participation does not end as another jamboree.
Oyinlomo is one of Nigeria’s shining stars who will illuminate the ITF tournaments over the three legs.
But more than the participation of the players, the Nigerian youngsters playing at this tournament are likely to set some unprecedented records at the championship.
Recall that at the last edition of the championship, Oyinlomo won the three legs in her category and shot up to about top 400 in the world from having no ranking points at all.
Naija Tennis Special therefore takes a look some of the records that are there to be set and broken by these youngsters who are leaving for the neighbouring African countries this weekend:
Junior Grand Slam opportunity for Oyinlomo
Last year, the talented player made the headlines for her scintillating performance at the championship where she became the cynosure of all eyes.
Her coach, Ubiebi, had rightly informed our correspondent that she could make it to the qualifiers of any junior grand slam if she picks up more points from other tournaments at the time.
This year, Oyinlomo who is already among the top 300 players in the junior cadre, will do her chances of raking in more points (she needs to be among the top 200) to enable her participate in the preliminaries of any of the major grand slams in the world, a lot of good by repeating the feat from last year.
But is she under pressure to achieve this? Her coach, Ubiebi, says: “No, she’s just being herself. She doesn’t even see it as a must, but we are preparing her seriously to defend her title over the three legs.” The coach therefore advised that the youngster be encouraged to participate in this year’s Orange Bowl tennis tournament taking place in the United States later this year.
“I believe this will help the player get better and compete against the very best in her category,” he stated.
Bulus to break Imeh’s 2015 record
Apart from Oyinlomo, Bulus is also in line to break fellow Nigerian, Joseph Imeh’s record of winning two legs and becoming a runner-up in another.
Can Bulus deliver the goods this year?
Bulus has been a revelation in the last one year and did really well at the 2017 CBN Open, where he lost to the same Imeh – a losing finalist.
Nigeria to dominate in the doubles
One of the plans of the Nigerian contingent to the tournament is to dominate in the boys’ and girls’ doubles and ensure that the country remains a shining light in world junior tennis competitions and ratings.
Meanwhile, Adetayo Adetunji who recently returned from a training tour of the United States, is expected to join the players in Benin for the first leg of the tournament.
Coomonwealth Games quarterfinalist, Adetayo, will fancy her chances at the championship after her training tour of the United States.
Adetunji who is a top 500 player also represented Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games in Bahamas a few months ago, where she made it to the quarter final of the tournament.
“She will be playing at the Governor’s Cup this year which also doubles as her first appearance in a professional tournament,” Coach Ubale said.