Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, hosts three tournaments on the ITF World Tennis Tour—the Tombim Abuja Open, Dayak Tennis Championship, and GSL Open—yearly.
A year ago, the President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, Engr. Dayo Akindoju revealed plans the federation had of taking those events a notch higher, converting them into ATP Challenger Tour events.
However, there were concerns in some quarters internationally, that Nigeria wouldn’t be safe to host such events. But players who participated in the ITF World Tour in Abuja put such concerns to bed, saying the city is completely safe. This year, the ITF supervisor for the Dayak Tennis Championship and GSL Open, Patrick Kamuhia waded in on the issue, noting that the country has what it takes to host ATP Challenger Tour tournaments.
“The conditions are ripe for Nigeria to host an ATP Challenger, probably here in Abuja or also in Lagos,” said Kamuhia. “The facilities are okay, probably one or two more adjustments to be done on the sizes. But of course, that’s a decision for the ATP to make.”
In truth, Nigeria is ready. The tournament director of all the ITF tournaments in Abuja since 2015, Ikani Agabi, also stated that the conditions are suitable to host Challenger events in Abuja, and a go-ahead from the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is all that’s needed.
“The question of whether it [the Abuja ITF World Tour events] becomes a challenger is completely out of our hands, because that’s a decision that will be taken by the ATP,” said Agabi. “What I can say is that we’ve done everything within our powers to convert the World Tour Series here into a challenger.
“We’ve basically fulfilled all the conditions ATP requires. We have one of the best player lounges and we have very well organized tournaments. We’re very close, we can’t predict what will happen, the ATP decides.
“If the ATP decides to give us the license to run the challenger here, we can host it immediately as soon as next year.”
Players who have competed on the ITF World Tennis Tour in Abuja are also eager to return to the city to play. One of such is Maximilian Neuchrist, who won the Dayak Tennis Championship in 2018 and now regularly struts his stuff on the Challenger Tour.
“I hope that the people here receive challengers, so I can come back and give my 100% like I always do,” the Austrian said.
Also, Dan Added of France, who clinched the GSL Open title this year, attested to enjoying the 3-week event in Abuja last month. While there were concerns about a volatile state in Abuja, Added says the situation turned out to be completely different, and is looking forward to playing in Abuja again.
“If i don’t come back next year, that will mean I’m playing challengers, but if I get the opportunity to come back I’ll come because everyone here is very nice. The conditions are hot here, but the facilities are very good here,” the 20-year-old Frenchman said.
“I had expectations before coming, speaking of Nigeria, we think it’s maybe dangerous something like that, but not at all. I’m feeling very good here, people are very nice here, people are really welcoming and friendly.”