Nigeria’s foremost tennis promoter, Godwin Kienka, has hailed the defeat of two of Nigeria’s highest ranked ATP players at the NCC Tennis League as a mark of improvement and growth of the game in the country.
Nigeria’s national champion, Moses Michael, and top seed. Christian Paul fell to the fighting spirit of lower ranked Jacob Ime and Mohammed Mohammed in a breathtaking thriller at the Centre Court of the National Stadium, Lagos Tennis complex, Saturday afternoon.
“The NCC Tennis League has brought about rapid improvement in tennis. It is a big upset to see Jacob Ime and Mohammed Mohammed defeat the national champion, Moses Michael and Christian Paul who are the two highest ranked ATP players. That’s a big improvement and the match was very high quality. We could almost say it was at the Masters series level.”
With prize money in the NCC a Tennis League raised to N7m from N5m in 2015, besides other improved welfare packages, Kienka attributes the development in tennis to the incentives provided for players to compete at their best.
“We are happy that the NCC Tennis League is stimulating such a quick improvement in the game. The kind of money they are playing for, the kind of package by which they are all well kitted and bonuses provided for them to attend matches are all very inspiring. You will therefore expect them to reciprocate by playing their best tennis when they are in court.
“With the toughness of the game and the determination of the players, I overheard a spectator saying “what do you expect when they are playing to win N7m? With that kind of money, you will expect them to almost want to die in the court.
“That notwithstanding, we have also seen a good exhibition of sportsmanship on the part of the players. It is very satisfying when you see players calling to concede points that the umpire did not see, even at such business points like in the semi finals and finals where big money is at stake. We are happy that the NCC league is stimulating such a quick growth and raising the standard of tennis in the country.
“Luckily the top level directors of the NCC were here to see the game and they could see what their sponsorship is producing for the country. It shows it is a sponsorship well directed and money well spent. It has sparked more interest in tennis. The club entries increased from eight to ten this year. It would have twelve but we stood down two clubs because they did not meet certain criteria. They are working hard now to meet the requirements.”
President of Nigeria’s Aquatic Sports, Mr. Babatunde Williams, also a tennis buff who was at the court side for the duration of the competition expressed delight at the gains of the NCC Tennis, wishing that other sports had such programmes.
“I have watched very good tennis today (Saturday). The NCC Tennis League is an excellent addition to Nigeria’s sports. I wish other sports had this type of tournament. It helps to keep players in shape as they play regularly rather than having just one competition in a year.”