Suleiman Ibrahim from Abuja got a standing ovation from the over 800 spectators when he was called up as the most outstanding player (MOP) in the boys events at the end of the weeklong Central Bank Junior Tennis Championship which ended in Lagos Saturday.
Suleiman had lost in the boys 16 finals to defending champion, David Dawariye of Rivers, 10-4, 7-10, 10-8 but his determination and superior stroke production which saw him rally from a set down to win the second set and take the match to a close final set, clearly endeared him to the crowd.
Asked why he got a standing ovation, the lanky Fulani boy said, “I think I played really well. I was nervous at the start but I will work hard to ensure that the result is different next time.”
The MOP for the girls was awarded to Omolade Aderemi from Ondo who won the girls 16 finals easily beating Omolayo Bamidele of Ekiti 10-5, 10-1. Aderemi, who lost in the semifinals of the last junior tournament a month ago, completely turned the table this time around – beating defending champion, Rebecca Ekpenyong, in the semifinals and, now twice runner-up, Bamidele in the finals.
The tournament ended with even more exciting matches in the other age categories, especially in the boys and girls 12s.
Seun ‘Nadal” Ogunsakin from Ekiti retained his boys 12 title by overcoming Lucky “Federer”: Danjuma, a very exciting player from Abuja 10-5, 10-7 while Nene Yakubu from Lagos fenced off a couple of set points in the first set to edge out Favour Amaechi from Rivers 13-11, 10-2
Other wiiners were Serena Teluwo of Lagos who beat Salamatu Haruna of Abuja, who just moved up to the 14s, 10-5, 10-7: David Ekpenyong of Akwa Ibom who won the boys 14 by defeating Ganiyu Mubarak from Oyo 10-4, 10-2.; Arwal Jaji from Lagos who won the boys 10 by beating Yohanna Yakubu
of Abuja 6-10, 10-7, 10-7 and Lorelax Holzendorf from Edo who beat teammate Esther Ehimebe 10-5, 2-10, 10-5.
The young players.had some tennis history lessons from the MCs who introduced Nduka Odizor, Nigeria’s tennis legend who was special guest of honour. Odizor was ranked as high as 52 in the world and played in all the four Grand Slams for many years.
The Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, in his brief address delivered by the Director, Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor, expressed satisfaction with the progress being made in the development of the game at the junior level and commended the International Tennis Academy (ITA) for the great job of harnessing and developing talent all over the nation.
“We cannot have any better evidence of the success of our investment in our Nigerian youth than the emergence of champions from all parts of the nation. From this years event you can see champions from the North, East, South and West and this is good evidence that the ITA is doing a good job of reaching all the talent that abound all over the nation.
The top juniors are expected to assemble at the end of the month for the SNEPCo Junior Tennis Championship which, according to the ITA will be used to prepare the girls in the 16 age category for the CBN Senior Championship