Over the past few years, no Nigerian player has been able to reach the heights that tennis legends in the country have attained.
In fact, the past six to seven years have seen many of these players leave the country for greener pastures abroad since the sport has not been rewarding for them. They neither played tournaments nor had good facilities to train with.
Although some of the junior players have continued to make the country proud at international tournaments, especially, their senior counterparts have not been able to manage continental success. Even the local tournaments have been reduced to a paltry two – CBN Open and Dala Open – and the players believe tennis is no longer lucrative in Nigeria.
|Moses Michael is one of the Nigerian players who is presently training and playing outside the country.|
When Naija Tennis Special reached out to veteran Nigerian ITF-certified tennis coach, Rotimi Akinloye, to find out what the problems of the players could be in the wake of these shortcomings, the revelations were mind blowing.
The technical director on the board of the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF) narrated, in clear words, why most Nigerian players seek greener pastures and why the trend is likely to continue if serious actions are not taken urgently.
“The major challenge of these players is sponsorship,” the former non-playing Davis Cup captain began.
|Nigeria’s number one male tennis player, Sylvester Emmanuel, is presently training and playing futures in Barcelona, Spain on the bills of Rainoil.|
“When the players do not have sponsors to help them launch out, how do you expect them to become a global brand? They need sponsorship that will help them play top international championships. They need a lot of tournaments.
“If we have sponsors that will launch them into the world scene, you will see clearly that Nigerian players are really talented and have the everything it takes to compete against their counterparts out there.
“High performance training is also needed. But if the players cannot get it in Nigeria, why won’t they launch out to places where they can get them?
|Desmond and his daughter, Whitney pose after her unbelievable feat at the Junior French Open.|
“Will cite the case of Desmond Osuigwe, whose daughter recently won the Junior French Open. He was raised in Lagos at the Ikeja Country Club, but look at where he is today, at the IMG Tennis Academy for so many years.
“To be sincere, no matter how good our intentions are, if we don’t create an enabling environment, we might be chasing shadows,” Coach Akinloye stated quite emotionally.
He then went ahead to reveal how Nigerian tennis can move forward, especially as it relates to grassroots.
“In this present NTF board, we are working on a structured scheme for grassroots tennis because they will form the bedrock of future tennis in the country.
“The junior tennis which has dominated West Africa will get more focus as we attempt to dominate the continent and take it to the world stage,” he explained.