Good times for wheelchair tennis in Nigeria, as the Vemp Open has added the wheelchair category to its event.

The Vemp Open is a national tournament for both men and women sponsored by the President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, Engr. Dayo Akindoju, and it debuted in September, 2018 in Abuja.

Following this recent development, the tournament will run twice this year, with the wheelchair event coming in July, while that for the able-bodied players serving off in September. The decision to have the wheelchair event hold in July is to enable the wheelchair players prepare towards the All Africa Games, which will hold in August in Morocco.

“Vemp normally that will hold around September/October is mainly male and female tournaments,” said Engr. Akindoju. “But we are preparing for Morocco All Africa Games; wheelchair players are going to.”

“They [wheelchair players] have not had enough tournaments since they got back from Kenya [World Team Cup qualifiers in Nairobi]. So, the idea of this Vemp coming up in July is to prepare them before they go to Morocco for the All Africa Games in August. So that’s why it was agreed that Vemp will now have the wheelchair division which will happen in July, and then the regular able-body tournament will happen some time in September/October.”

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Nigerian players at the wheelchair event in Nairobi, Kenya.

However, the timing of the Vemp wheelchair event might change in subsequent years, according to the sponsor. This year, there will be two weeks of ITF Junior tournament in July at the National Tennis Centre, Abuja. Thus, the organizers of the wheelchair event want it to run concurrently with the ITF Junior events, as the National Tennis Centre is accommodating.

“We will see about that, but I think it depends,” said Akindoju on subsequent timing for the wheelchair event. “In July, we are using the opportunity that we have two weeks of Junior ITF tournament that will happen during that period. We saw that it’s better to use one stone to kill two birds. We have enough courts here [Abuja], so we can equally run both tournaments together.”

“Next year, depending on the situation, we might decide to run it separately or we can run it along with any of the able-body tournaments.”

Details of the tournament such as the draw size, the prize-money and the number of players expected to compete are still in the pipeline, as the principal aim for now is to prepare the players for the All Africa Games.

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Engr. Dayo Akindoju, sponsor of the Vemp Open, speaking at the ITF World Tour event in Abuja. To his left is Ikani Agabi (tournament director of the ITF World Tour in Abuja).

“In all honesty, all those things [aforementioned] have not been finalized, because the primary purpose is to prepare them for the All Africa Games. We will look at those details soon, so we will be able to release them before the tournament.

“Watch out for the fact sheet of the tournament and all details of what will happen will be published,” the President added.

In February this year, the Nigerian wheelchair team had a good run at the World Team Cup qualifiers in Nairobi, Kenya, with Paralympians, Wasiu Yusuf and Alex Adewale clinching the doubles titles. Adewale finished as runner-up in the singles event.