Jonathan Igbinovia, a former Nigerian tennis star, who’s now with the Genesis Tennis Academy in Arizona, USA, has revealed his plans for youngsters in Nigeria, and gave assurances that in five years, home players will begin to win the Lagos Open.
Speaking to newsmen at the Lagos Open, the US-based Nigerian revealed he’s looking to partner with the Lagos Open in a bid to ensure that Nigerian players can compete at the highest level.
“Players have to train to a certain level to be able to compete with their foreign counterparts,” Igbinovia, who reached the men’s singles final of the Lagos Open in 2004, said.
In line with that, a training program, known as the Lagos Open Junior tournament, has been established. The event, which is conducted for juniors, will run for four days – players will undergo training for two days after which there will be a 2-day competition. This program kicked off on Thursday. Friday was also a day for training, while the competition will hold on Saturday and Sunday, with finals to be played on Sunday.
“We have about 80 kids for the Under 10, 12, 14 & 16 categories. We will be able to find a future star. We won’t just do a tournament, we will also follow up with the players,” Igbinovia stated.
For the champions that will emerge from the junior competition, Igbinovia says the plan is to take them abroad for better development.
“They’re living in a different surrounding,” the 39-year-old tennis coach said. “So we want to create a place to change their thinking. We will get a sponsor to support their transition from here to the US – to the Genesis Academy – to train with the players there. Every two years if we have 2 boys, 2 girls, I promise you, in 5 years we will have a Nigerian winning this [Lagos Open].
However, he says there’s been no committment from the Lagos Open yet regarding sponsorship and has called on members of the tennis community to help with resources, be it money, support or time.
“No commitment yet from the Lagos Open, so we are still trying to reach out,” he said. “The players will need sponsorship for like two years.
“If any sponsor comes forward and help, I guarantee their success.”
Jonathan Igbinovia enjoyed success during his playing days, he won a singles title on the ITF World Tour- in Benin City, in April, 2005, and claimed four ITF doubles titles, two coming at the Lagos Open in 2004 and 2007, partnering Ghana’s Henry Adjei-Darko and his countryman, Abdulmumin Babalola, respectively.