Novak Djokovic is one of the greatest tennis players of all time, and one of the most iconic figures in sports generally. He is 36 years old.
The Serbian, over the weekend, added the ATP Finals 2023 to his already heavy cabinet of trophies and titles. He will end 2023 as the world’s number one player for a record total of 400 weeks across 13 different years.
Add that to the three Grand Slam titles he won in 2023 having reached the finals of four within the same period.
This ruthless player seems to be unstoppable on the court despite the recent upsurge of young talents. Carlos Alcaraz, Jannick Sinner, among others, are still losing to Djokovic in spite of his age.
Seeing all his achievements and legendary status over the years looks desirable from a tennis standpoint, but will it ever be possible for a Nigerian to – to start with – win a Grand Slam title in the nearest future?
The closest a Nigerian player has been to Djokovic was when tennis legend, Shehu Lawal, was ranked 84th in the world and the Serbian was rated 73rd in the junior cadre of tennis.
Lawal apparently fell off, even though he continued to rack up titles in Nigeria to become such a household name and tennis legend in the country. But he did not reach or get close to reaching the heights that Djokovic reached.
With many tennis players and parents getting more aware of what it takes to get a player up to the level of Djokovic’s or other top players, will a Nigerian player ever get to the heights of this tennis legend?
The highest-ever ranked Nigerian tennis player remains Nduka Odizor, who reached world number 52 ranking in 1984, a feat which no Nigerian has been able to emulate ever since.
In fact, the only Nigerian on the ATP Rankings as of this day is US-based Christopher Bulus, who has been playing matches on the tour for a while now.
Every other ‘top’ Nigerian player is either struggling to play national tournaments in Nigeria, because there are a few of them, or are more interested in coaching young ones because that’s where they are more likely to make ‘money’ from.
In a yet-to-be-released interview, current Nigerian number one player, David Ekpenyong, stated that he believes that a Nigerian can win the Grand Slam even though he is not sure when or who that can be.
According to him: “I believe a Nigerian player can win the grand slam, I’m very sure of this. I cannot mention a person’s name because I don’t want people to come for me if the person does not win.
“But I am certain that a Nigerian player can reach that level in tennis and win it. It’s not impossible”.
Which Nigerian player will come close to the achievements of this player, whom, according to Wikipedia, started playing tennis at the age of four?
Globally, what he has achieved is the stuff that dreams are made of, and many other top stars in the world are hoping to achieve half as much as this global tennis star.
However, is anything wrong with having a Nigerian player be the one to surpass Djokovic’s legendary status, whether based in the country or not?