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What future for Nigeria tennis after AJC?

It is not in doubt that the country committed so much in terms of resources and preparation towards the hosting of the event.

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Many Nigerians saluted the choice of Nigeria for the hosting of the junior tennis event with high expectation that country’s tennis will no longer be at the stage it was prior to the continental championship, both in terms of facilities and performance of Nigerian tennis players.

With the championship now over, Nigerians and other stakeholders are asking whether Nigeria actually benefitted from hosting the event, which cost the country a fortune to package.

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It is not in doubt that Nigeria has benefitted hugely in terms of facilities development, as over seventeen new tennis courts were built preparatory for the staging of the championship at the Abuja National Stadium.

Like the immediate past Minister of Sports and Chairman National Sports Commission Engineer Sani Ndanusa who doubles as the President of Nigeria Tennis Federation said earlier, the tennis facilities at the Abuja National Stadium would henceforth make Nigeria one of the most sought-after venues for tennis competitions.

For those who participated in one way or the other in the fourteen days tennis event, not much was achieved by Nigeria outside the area of facilities development, as no Nigerian won one of the events at the tennis gathering which is design by International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Confederation of African Tennis (CAT) to catch them young.

Before the championship started Nigeria was upbeat about what to do at the African tennis championship, aside from the intense training that was put in place ahead of the show.

In all, twenty kids between the ages of 14, 16 and 18 were picked and camped in Abuja for four weeks for the big occasion.

Babatunde Abe, one of Nigerian coaches who had the task of drilling the kids in readiness for the tough challenge from the rest of Africa, told Tennis World that he was sure of an excellent outing at the continental tennis showpiece because of the response of the players in camp.

Abe expressed satisfaction with the quality of players in camp, saying with continued training, Nigeria stands a chance of improving on her outing in the previous editions.

“We have been preparing for the African Junior Tennis Championship to be hosted by Nigeria from March 29. I have 20 players in camp and with the responses from the players I want to say Nigeria will win laurels at the championship.

“I also believe that the future of tennis in this country is bright, with the quality of young boys and girls that are here”, Abe stated.

But aside from the failure to win any of the twelve events in both the Warm-Up and African Junior Championship, Nigeria did not win a single place in the Junior Davis Cup which participating countries were chosen based on the excellent outing in the Warm Up and AJC.

Many people, particularly Nigerians were disappointed to see their representatives crashing out like pack of cards after the second matches of the Warm-Up and the AJC after a brilliant start to the championship on the first and second days of both events.

Their expectation was that these expected future stars would post excellent results and come out with medals like the Golden Eaglets did when Nigeria hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup last year.

But it was not to be as, the tennis stars, three of whom were foreign-based crumbled to the superior power work of mostly Egyptians, Tunisians, South Africans and Burundians.

On the first day of the championship, ten of Nigeria’s representatives booked their places to the second round of the event; with two of the boys telling Tennis World in an interview that they are prepared to post excellent results at the championship and lift Nigeria to the zenith of global tennis.

Among the Nigerian players who qualified for the second round of the championship on the first day of hospitalities were South Africa-based Umaru Balami who ousted his Zimbabwean opponent Ronzai Sorombe 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 and David Ayeni who edged past Enrico Craighero of Italy.

Ayeni who ousted Ahmed Triki of Italy 6-2, 6-3 to book a second round ticket, will face Marouan Ferchichi of Tunisia today.

In a chat with Tennis World after their victories, Ayeni said the victory has boosted his morale and he would not look back until he clinches the top prize at the championship.

He stated that, apart from training hard to win laurels, he would continue to take advantage of the hot weather in the country to beat his opponents who are not favourably disposed to harsh the weather situation in Abuja.

According to him, he was now focused more than ever before to win all matches at the tennis championship.

But at the end of hostilities in the Warm-Up, which is chiefly a points gathering event, only Nigeria’s Edward Christopher and Nonso Madueke have booked semi-final slots, which they all later lost.

It was in the boys 14 and under that Nigeria showed flashes of picking something home, as the duo of Emmanuel Idoko and Mohammed Mohammed lost in the final; the country’s sole survival in the singles event, Samuel Omoile crashed out to South Africa’s Pieters Hernus 6-2, 6-3 in the quarter final.

To Coach Abe, the Nigerian representatives have not disappointed totally, as they have provided great hope for the future. He said what the country needs at the moment is to establish tennis academies where the youngsters would be kept together for intense and rigorous training.

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