Tennis  

Emerging players fuel expectations of brighter future

The aspiring stars and Chevron Nigeria officials at the end of the junior tennis clinic in Lagos…recently.

The aspiring stars and Chevron Nigeria officials at the end of the junior tennis clinic in Lagos…recently.

Suddenly, the future looks very bright for Nigerian tennis. Last week, female junior tennis sensation, Oyinlomo Barakat Quadri, beat all-comers to emerge the best player at the West/Central Africa Junior Championship, which featured players from across the continental, as well as Asians, Europeans and Americans.

Quadri was not the only Nigerian to acquit herself well at the tourney, as Angel McLeod, Toyin Asagba, Michael Osewa, Martin Abamu and Sikiru Alalade also helped to lead the country to the over all title at the championship.

Nigeria topped the competition with four gold and one silver medal, edging Korea, who got four gold medals, to the second position.Egypt and France were joint third with one gold and one silver medal each, while USA and Cote d’Ivoire bagged a gold each to finish joint fourth in the 19-day circuit.

Last week’s results were just among the recent performances that have given pundits hope that the country would soon join the elite of the world’s tennis-playing nations. That is, if the children continued developing the way they are doing.At the recent Chevron Tennis Clinic, where most of these young players were hued, The Guardian was privileged to see first hand how school children are being turned into tennis prodigies by a team of coaches, whose duties are to unearth the talented youngsters and put them in a programme that takes them through the rudiments of the game and build them up to become promising stars.

About 100 children participated in the 2016 NNPC/Chevron Tennis Clinic, where 15 were chosen to feature in the Junior Masters’ tournament, a competition that tests the students’ ability in the game.Having been privileged to be on the receiving end of coaching, training, guidance and conditioning in the three-week-long clinic organised by Chris Enaharo on behalf of Chevron Nigeria Limited, the players moved into a weekend coaching programme that will end on October 16, a day before the Masters serves off.

The Master tournament will end on October 23 and the successful children will be selected into the highly-rated Chevron club.Some of the players now enjoying free coaching include Michael Osewa, Michael Ayoola, Wilson Igbinovia, Ezekiel Ekang, Steven Augustine, Opeyemi Agunbiade, Joseph Fortune, Emman Jebutu, Noah Adamu and Gabriel Masha.

Others on the list are Matthew Abamu, Sadiq Kushimo, Usman Kushimo, Christopher Bulus. The players met officials of Chevron on September 17, where they were given their gifts for being part of the programme. While ushering them into the tennis fold, the General Manager, Government and Public Affairs of Chevron Nigeria Limited, Deji Haastrup, challenged the players to improve on the foundation that has been laid for them at the clinic.

He said: “I can therefore say that the participants have been exposed to the necessary basics of tennis, upon which they can build on. I like to congratulate the participants, who have been privileged to be part of this year’s edition. I believe they will continue to improve on the foundation that has been laid at this clinic,” added Haastrup.

To some of the players, it was the beginning of a fruitful journey that will see them rubbing shoulders with some of their peers from across the world soon.Most of the players described the clinic as the ladder they need to climb to the summit of the game, especially with the new vista being opened for Nigerian junior players by the West/Central Africa circuit.

One of the budding stars, Steven Augustine, said: “My time here has been fulfilling because of what I have learnt from my coaches, who advised us to keep on working hard if we want to succeed in this sport.”Opeyemi Agunbiade, like Augustine, believes “this is just the start of the journey for me and I am going to train hard to justify my inclusion in the top 15, which I believe did not come as a surprise given my work-rate in the clinic.

“I am not going to take things easy because my target is to rank high amongst my peers in the amp but I know success would not come on a platter of gold.”Wilson Igbinovia, whose older siblings went through the Chevron programme, said the thought of playing in the Masters was already having positive effects on him, noting that: “I never saw this coming but I thank God that I am in the top 15 and can only wish for better things to happen to me”.Emman Jebutu’s ambition is to win the Masters crown, which he said would set the tone for a successful foray into the junior tennis circuit.

He acknowledges, “It won’t be easy for the top boys because others in the top 15 want to shine, which makes me to believe that we would have new finalists this year.”Michael Osewa knows what it takes to be a Masters champion, and so he is determined to make the best use of the opportunity to enhance his reputation among the juniors.

He said, “My plan is to take my game to a new level next month by doing something special that will shoot me to the top of the junior game in Nigeria. It is going to be exciting and I am ready to play my part to make it a great experience.”



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