The SNEPCo Futures Tennis Championship for 2019 takes centre stage in Lagos this week, with 93 youngsters from all over the country set to jostle for top honours at the annual event.
With the tournament set to get off on Monday, 27 May, we take a look at five players among the lot to watch out for.
Last year’s winner in the Under 16 category, Omolayo Bamidele will be looking to have a successful title-defense in Lagos this year. She comes into the tournament in great form, having made back-to-back finals in the only two Under-16 tournaments in Nigeria this year.
Bamidele reached the final at the CBN Junior Tennis Championship, which concluded this month (lost to Omolade Aderemi). Before that, there was the run to the final at the Chevron Junior Tennis Championship in March, where she lost to Rebecca Ekpeyong.
Having won the Most Outstanding Player award in the female category of last year’s event, Bamidele will certainly be gunning for another memorable outing.
Dubbed ‘Nadal’, Seun Ogunsakin, who clocked 10 in February this year, has had a sensational season on the junior circuit so far.
The Ekiti-native, playing in the 12 & Under category, enjoyed a memorable outing at the African Junior Championship Final qualifiers in Cotonou, Benin Republic in March, where he didn’t lose a singles match the entire tournament, playing a significant role in Nigeria’s boys team third-place finish. So good were his performances he was adjudged the best player of the tournament by players, spectators as well as the ITF expert there.
Back in Nigeria, the youngster claimed back-to-back Under-12 titles at the Chevron Junior Tennis Championship (beat Mohammed Idris in the final) and the CBN Junior Tennis Championship (beat Lucky Danjuma in the final).
However, in April, the 10-year-old lost to Mohammed Idris in the semifinals of the U-12 category at the Play Your Age tournament in Abuja. He will be aiming for another strong outing this week in Lagos and is surely one to watch out for.
Before moving up the rungs to the Under-14 category, Salamatu Haruna had won two out of three Under-12 tournaments in Nigeria this year—clinching the Chevron Junior Tennis Championship and the Play Your Age titles.
Like Ogunsakin, Salamatu Haruna represented Nigeria at the AJC Finals qualifiers in Cotonou, and impressed in the girls’ category, losing only her first singles match against Ghana before winning her remaining 3 matches.
Earlier in May, she began her Under-14 journey with a bang, reaching the final of the CBN Junior Tennis Championship (lost to Serena Teluwo). Haruna enters this event as a favourite for the Under-14 title, given Serena Teluwo’s absence (in Kenya for the U-14 circuit). It will be interesting to see how she pulls through.
Suleiman Ibrahim won Gold at the ITF/CAT West & Central African Individual & Team Junior Championship in Togo in January. In April, he finished runner-up in Leg I of the ITF/CAT African Junior Circuit in Togo and finished 4th in Leg II of the same event.
The youngster played in the Under 16s for the 1st time at the CBN Junior Tennis Championship this month and lost in a close final to David Dawariye, who has won every 16s tournament this year. However, Ibrahim won the Most Outstanding Player award in the male category, because of his impressive play.
Victory in this tournament might earn him a wildcard to the next junior tournament – the Zenith Bank “Next Generation” Masters, which is for the best 8 players in the 16 age category (boys and girls). Following his remarkable displays so far, it’s difficult not to see him going all the way.
Favour Moses won the CBN Junior title in the Under-16 category in April last year, and was also adjudged the most outstanding player in that tournament. Since then, the youngster, who’s seeded fourth in the Under-16 category on the ITA Junior Circuit, has only made semi-final runs in junior events. You’d expect her to build on that and achieve ultimate success in Lagos this week.