Nigeria’s No.1, Blessing Samuel reflects on her previous year and looks ahead to the new season.

Blessing Samuel began her 2018 season on a fine note, reaching the semi-final of the CBN Open in Abuja, where she fell short to Christie Agugbom. She would embark on a terrific run thereafter, claiming three national titles on the trot—Vemp Open, Rainoil Open, and the Dala Hard Court Championships—to finish the year as the top ranked female in the country.

“2018 was my most successful year in tennis where I won three national tournaments and also became Nigeria’s No.1 player in the national rankings,” Blessing said.

The 28-year-old lifted her fifth Dala Hard Court title to close out her individual season in November last year, and is now one title away from tying Fatima Abinu’s record of six titles won at the event. With the plans she’s put in place for the 2019 season, another remarkable run could be on the cards, not just at the Dala Hard Court, where she will be the double defending champion, but in other national tournaments as well.

“To keep putting in more commitment and continue the winning run,” she said of her plans for the season. “With hardwork and determination [I can surpass my 2018 records]. Considering I’d be playing the same people I played last year, I can overcome.”

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In recent times, Samuel has combined playing professionally with her academics. And so, lack of tournaments in the first half of the year became a blessing in disguise for her academic pursuits. She, however, wants the tennis federation to include more tournaments for the women to keep the game in play.

“Before now [completing her 1st Degree], no tournament in the 1st half has not really affected me so much, because it gave me time to focus on my education. But now that I’m done with school, it will be good if the Federation can help with more tournaments to keep the female game busy”.

Last year, she and Christie Agugbom enjoyed an excellent chemistry in the doubles discipline, winning three titles together (CBN Open, Vemp Open and the Rainoil Open). Both women now sit atop the NTF Doubles Rankings as they are tied on the same points. And according to Samuel, their fruitful partnership is a result of the close working relationship they had.

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Blessing Samuel and Christie Agugbom (middle) after clinching the Vemp Open doubles title in Abuja last year.

“The thing is, we were working at the same place, so we were always training together,” Samuel said. “Although it was not as smooth at the beginning, but with time we began to understand each other. That’s why the confidence is always there whenever we step on the court.”