Following his remarkable title-winning run at the Tombim Abuja Open last week, France’s Sadio Doumbia assesses his victory in Sunday’s final, while also talking about the tournament ahead and his delight in playing in Nigeria and around Africa.
The Frenchman had a fantastic first week in Abuja, winning the Tombim Abuja Open in straight-sets against his countryman, Jaimee Floyd Angele, on Sunday. But a day before, his partnership with his compatriot, Fabien Reboul, paid off as the duo claimed the doubles title. It was the fifth title he and Reboul would win as a team.
This week, the Dayak Tennis Championships will take centre stage, with Doumbia among those jostling for top honours. The 28-year-old says he’s excited about the run he had last week and is looking forward to simply enjoying another week of tennis action.
“I’m very excited that I won in singles and doubles,” said Doumbia, who’s currently ranked 387th in the world. “It was an amazing week for me, but this week [Dayak Tennis Championships] I don’t know, anything can happen. Maybe I’d lose 1st round, maybe I’d win tough matches, maybe I’d win the tournament. I just want to enjoy what I’ve achieved last week and enjoy this week.”
His opponent in Sunday’s final, Jaimee Floyd Angele, had powered through to the final hitting a staggering 53 aces (finished with 57). The 19-year-old stands at 6ft 9in and has a powerful serve. As a result of that, he’s likened to USA’s John Isner, who’s currently ranked 10th in the world, stands at 6ft 10in and boasts one of the biggest serves in the sport. Doumbia, on the other hand, posseses a one-handed backhand similar to that of Swiss great, Roger Federer. Thus, the final match on Sunday drew comparison to a Federer–Isner contest, but Doumbia has dismissed such comparison.
“You can’t compare,” he said. “I don’t think we have much in common, but it’s true that he [Angele] plays a bit like John Isner. He has a great serve, he made it very difficult for me, but I played good. I tried to mix it up a bit using my slice. It was a tough match, but I’m happy I got the win.”
Four years ago in Annaba, Algeria, Doumbia won the singles title of an ITF World Tour tournament, and partnered with Fabien Reboul to win the doubles title. He matched that feat in Abuja last week, making it only the second time he would do a clean sweep in a single week in Africa alongside Reboul. He owes the impressive showing to his fondness for Africa and sometimes, the weather conditions within the continent.
“I like it here,” the 6-time ITF World Tour champion said. “I like the people, my Dad is from Africa [Mali]. I feel like at home whenever I play in Africa. I enjoy the condition, it’s hot and humid, it’s good for my game. Sometimes I play poorly and sometimes I play well.”
At the Dayak Tennis Championships this week, last year’s Lagos Open champions, Tom Jomby and Jack Draper—both of whom won the first and second legs in Lagos, respectively, will be in action. Doumbia acknowledges there will be an increase in the level of competition, but he isn’t fazed by that.
“Anything can happen,” he said. “It’s about having a good week and competing hard, playing well and winning the big points. True, the competition will be a bit tougher than the previous week. It’s a draw of 32 players, anybody can win.”
The Frenchman once competed at the Lagos Open, notably finishing as a runner-up in 2015. He revealed he had always wanted to return to Nigeria to play after then. And now, he has returned, speaking fondly about the people and the great atmosphere, as well as other things he enjoys in the country.
“The people are great, I like the atmosphere, it’s very well organized. A lot of fans, kids watching the matches. The kids being loud makes it great to play tennis. I feel like at home. The food is amazing, many things are good here.”
“I came here like 3 years ago, I was looking forward to coming back then. Same thing now. Whenever there’s a tournament, I’d try to come back to Nigeria again.”
Sadio Doumbia will have another title-winning run in mind when he begins his campaign at the Dayak Tennis Championships this week. He faces Dutchman, Niels Lootsma in the first round on Wednesday, 17 April.