Tennis is fast becoming one of the most-watched sports in Nigeria, Africa, and globally despite the media presence of other sports like soccer and basketball. This exponential development is due to the fact that the sport now receives more sponsorship and media attention than before.
For instance, the worldwide web has given the game more attention through free live matches and betting sites. These free live matches and betting sites take the game or match to the fans and enable them to catch up with the latest news and happenings.
Apart from free live matches and betting sites, many tournaments and cup competitions are springing up worldwide that feature sensational stars of this amazing sport. Before now, the game lacked these inputs, but with the help of organizations and the International Tennis Federation, the game is being repackaged to appeal to enthusiasts.
In history, the best players of this sport have come from different continents, including Switzerland, Spain, and America. It is no hidden fact that very few players from Nigeria or Africa have made a huge impact on the world scene. The reason for this is not far-fetched as the game doesn't get much attention down here.
There is also a perpetual dearth of facilities and sponsorship to enable the growth of young stars across the federation.
Before the advent of the NCC league, there were little to no local and national cups and contests across the federation. The lack of challenge and regular competition contributes greatly to the slow development of promising stars. The available cups had low remuneration and financial backing, which is a motivational factor for any athlete.
Despite these setbacks, Nigeria has enjoyed several stars graced this sport with their skills and enviable records. In this article, we intend to look at some of the best tennis players in Nigeria in no particular order.
The criteria for selecting these players include their current ranking, number of successful cup wins, and participation in global contests like the Olympics.
The Male Category
Nigerian tennis has witnessed several men that brought glory home and etched their names in the game's history. Below are some of these stars that have won games at the local and global level.
Many Nigerian tennis players have not enjoyed a high ATP ranking like Nduka Odizor, who ranked 52 in his time. After winning one and seven singles and doubles, the Lagos-born right-handed player was a household name in the eighties.
He also represented Nigeria at the Olympics but lost in the early phase. He is regarded as one of the greats when it comes to the game at home and abroad.
Tony Mmoh appeared in the news and limelight in the eighties when he participated in the 1988 Olympics. Even though he got defeated after the first round, the Enugu-born star is still regarded as one of the best men of the game. After the Olympics, he appeared once again in the news after winning several matches and games, cemented his place as one of the greats.
We must not forget Musa Mustapha, the under 13 ITF star in his category. Mustapha is set for greater heights and made his aim to climb higher on the ITF and ATP tables known at the Nigerian open.
Musa Mustapha started his open career three years ago in Lagos. Since then, he proceeded to win the ITF junior a year later. The future is bright for the young star as he hopes to lead the tables on the ATP and other global contests.
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Top Female Tennis Players
Nigerian tennis has also seen several females that have graced the game with their talents and unparalleled skills. Some of them have represented the country at international tournaments, while some still ply their trade within the shores of the country. These are some of the players in no particular order.
Oyinlomo Quadre is the name on the tongue of every tennis lover across the country. The teenage sensation, who is just eighteen, is a top female tennis player in Nigeria as she is currently first on the Nigerian tennis rankings.
Oyinlomo Quadre started her journey as a player at the tender age of four and has risen to become a force to reckon with on the international stage.
Oyinlomo Quadre was born into a family that loves the sport as her father is an enthusiast and two of her siblings play the game.
She started her career on a rough note as the courts she trained with were non-standard. Over time, she used the Lagos lawn tennis court as her training ground, which helped exponentially push her career and abilities.
At nine years old, Oyinlomo Quadre won an under 16 tournament beating several players older than her. On this account, her coach took her out of Lagos after witnessing her prowess on the court and registered her for national tournaments in Abuja, where she defeated the former women's champion.
She proceeded with this record to the African junior championship, where she made it to the quarterfinals. She has won the ITF's junior tournament and several national contests in and out of Africa. She also hopes to play at the WTA one day.
Her role models include the likes of Federer, who she described as a player that makes things easy on the court. She also looks up to Serena Williams and wishes to win more grand slams than her one day. To this effect, she continues to work hard and not rest on her laurels till she achieves her goals.
Off the courts, Oyinlomo Quadre wishes to further her education and contribute to humanity as much as she can. Presently, she has a foundation established with her sister that supports ball boys who can't afford basic life needs. We hope to see more of her sterling performance this August and beyond.
Another teenage sensation is Marylove Edwards. The sixteen-year-old started playing the game at four and is already being dubbed as the Nigerian Serena. As of August 2021, she is currently seventh on the Nigerian tennis rankings in the women's double category but third in the singles.
She currently trains in the United States, where the Williams sisters also started their journey. The star player has won the ITF championship and ranks as the best African player in her category.
She is also the youngest player in the senior team ranking. She believes that her strength as an athlete lies in working hard and not giving up. She has set her sights on winning the first grand slam as a Nigerian and achieving more than her role models.
Her journey started with her dad, who trained her before handing her over to a prestigious academy in the US. Her dream is to be herself as she continues on this path of development. She also hopes to be a member playing for the WTA one day.
Sarah Adegoke, the winner of the prestigious women singles at the rain oil contest, is another name worthy of the list of best women athletes that have graced this game.
As of June 2021, she is first on the women's double category of Nigerian tennis rankings. Her father, who taught her, read the game's law from books as he was not trained professionally.
Even though her father read news and laws of the game from books, she became a marvel quickly as she ranked first and won the CBN championship at sixteen. She was the best in the nation and defeated several contemporaries at the Rainoil, Ikoyi club, and other local contests.
Her number in wins and accolades continues to grow as she sets her sights on playing for the WTA and surpassing her role model Serena, whom she read about at a tender age. She works hard and hopes to make a high number on the ITF and ATP tables in the coming years.
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We also have other athletes that have made some impact, like Blessing Samuel, the thirty-year-old with a career-high of 842, and Henry Atseye, the thirty-two-year-old controversial athlete who has made his mark at the rainoil contest. Other sensations include the Kaduna-based Christopher Itodo, who has won and participated in many local competitions.
The list also includes several NCC league players that have made the top of the local and national rankings one time or the other.
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To sum it up, Nigerian tennis players might not have the accolades and medals of their global counterparts, but there is no denying that the future is bright as many new stars are coming up to bridge this gap.
The advent of the NCC league and other national competitions like the CBN open have created a fertile ground for challenges among local and new athletes. These leagues and cups will enable new stars to compete healthily among themselves and stars outside the nation.
As long as sponsors and the government are willing to develop the sport from different angles, we will have more names vying for places on the global scene.
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