Champion dominance in sports competitions seems to hold no more as the just concluded NCC-sponsored Tennis Cup 2016 saw defending champions and top ranked athletes go down for new ones.
The Competition, which was organised by the International Tennis Academy, and sponsored by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the nation’s telecoms regulator, started off with 10 teams in participation.
With a 4-2 win over the defending champions, Team Tombim of Abuja, debutant Kaduna-based Team Offikwu showed superior class and much zeal to clinch the coveted cup and a prize money of N7 million.
In the last game Sylvester Emmanuel of Team Offikwu offset the national champion, Moses Michael of Team Tombim in a game that proved to be the highlight of the tournament.
In the ladies singles, Aanu Aiyegbusi who upset national champion Christie Agugbom in straight sets in the semi-finals also edged out Sarah Adegoke, a former national champion to win in her category.
Team Offikwu got N7 million while runners-up Team Tombim got N5 million. Team Civil Defence winners of the third place went home with N4 million while the fourth place team, Team FCT got N2 million.
The Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta who was represented by the Head, Public Relations, NCC, Mr Reuben Muoka, said that the league had afforded Nigeria’s best players the opportunity to confront each other on several occasions and at different venues, within a tennis calendar year.
While enumerating the successes of the tourney, he noted that since the tournament draw was taken in July, 2016, the league has kept Nigeria’s best tennis players, managers and teams owners busy while keeping tennis and sports lovers excited.
“Reports reaching us indicate that this tournament is the best that has ever happened to tennis in this country in a very long time.
“The NCC tennis team has also attracted foreign-based Nigerian players home to compete. Seasoned tennis administrators and veterans also tell us that the prize money has encouraged team owners and managers to work harder and made players more dedicated. “We are also told that in just two editions of this tournament, many more Nigerian players have achieved Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) international rankings,” he said.
According to Albert Bikom of Team Offikwu who won his final set against Emmanuel Paul of Team Tombim, the Nigerian Sports Ministry needs to do more for the growth of Tennis in the country. According to him, most of the athletes’ feats within and outside the country are self-sponsored or from corporate bodies. He thanked the NCC for this endeavour to keep Nigerian athletes busy with the country. He noted that the best way to improve the athlete performances is to bring tournaments such as the NCC Tennis Cup into the country, this will keep the players busy.
Sarah Adegoke of Team Tombim applauded the tournament and noted that it has further challenged her to aim higher.
Commending the NCC for setting the tone for policy direction by inviting the private sector into Tennis sport development, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Barr. Solomon Dalung noted that the league was organised in the six geo-political zoned in the country, including Abuja. “And today we are witnessing the grand finale without the FG funding. It is a huge success.”
He appealed to Nigerian youths to participate in sporting activities because there are benefits to it. He pledged that the FG will do more to support athletes and further grow the sport.
According to the former Vice President, Sir Dr Alex Ekwueme, after a long decline, the sport is getting better in Nigeria. He called on other private sector organisations to join in developing more athletes through instituting tournaments that will help them improve on their skills. “It was a very exciting event and I thoroughly enjoyed the matches. If this competition is sustained Nigeria should be able to produce world beaters in the very near future.”
Former Nigerian International tennis star, Nduka Odizor, applauded the quality of the tournament but pointed out that there is a need to help the athletes develop skill sets which are paramount to the growth of the sport in Nigeria.
He further implored philanthropic Nigerians to invest in sports. “There are many wealthy people in Nigeria who can help sports in Nigeria, but most of them are very selfish. If they have been very successful and have been blessed in Nigeria, by Nigerians, its time they started doing something.”