Team Nigeria will kick-start their campaign in tennis at the African Games on the 23rd of August in Rabat, Morocco, with eight players leading the country’s charge for medals in the sport, and the team is optimistic about their chances.
The eight players selected were from a crop of 16, who were invited to camp in Lagos for a six-week training. While the selection of the 16 players were based upon form, rankings and style of play on clay, which will be the surface at the Games in Morocco, the criteria used to select the final eight was based purely on how good a player was, according to the NTF Technical Director, Coach Rotimi Akinloye.
“We had our trials. Everybody that came to camp are very good, we gave them all we can and they played their trials and we came out with the best possible list we can have without having any favorites,” Akinloye said.
Having received the best possible support from Nigeria’s Ministry of Youth and Sports as well as the country’s tennis federation, Coach Akinloye says “expectations are high.”
“If the players can express themselves and give 100% of what we’ve given them, I think they’d perform very well in Morocco,” he said.
“We as technical people have a saying, ‘performance brings results’. Results are medals. When our athletes peform well, results will come and when results come, medals will come. Our expectations are high because since 2003 we’ve always been there winning medals even before then Nigeria has always been faring well as far as tennis is concerned.”
The NTF official delegate to the Games, Mr. Yemi Owoseni, who’s also Vice President of the Confederation of African Tennis, shares the same sentiment and acknowledged everything that was needed by the players and coaches were all provided.
“I hope we are going to do well,” Mr. Owoseni said. Some of the players picked are the best hands we can lay our hands on in the country. They went to camp and after a whole lot of training in camp, they had to play a round-robin to pick the best. We believe they will do well.”
Doping is an issue in sports that has always been tackled. Coach Akinloye says all the players are aware of it and were “well-educated.” He also stated there are no injury concerns as they were really careful with the way the players were trained to avoid burnouts. “Overtraining can be retrogressive,” the Coach said.
The players also are feeling confident going into the Games. Aanu Aiyegbusi, who’s representing Nigeria abroad for the first time as a senior player says she’s focused and “really happy.”
“I believe nothing is impossible. I just want to go for what I enjoy doing and be more focused in all my matches from the beginning to the end,” Aiyegbusi said.
“I’m really happy. It is a dream come true.”