Sylvester Emmanuel is arguably, Nigeria’s most formidable tennis player at the moment. The 20-year-old has pulled together strings of brilliant performances to dominate national tournaments this season, and those performances have seen him rise to number two on the NTF rankings list; 5 points shy of the top spot.
Having dominated the local scene, can he now replicate that success on the international stage and go all the way to achieve glory in Lagos?
Emmanuel posted his best result on the ITF Pro Circuit at the Lagos Open in 2016, where he came close to making the semifinals. He now returns a year after he was forced to miss the previous edition due to injury- a development that was highly disappointing given that the youngster had spent a better part of 2017 in Spain plying his trade and garnering experience.
This year, there have been improvements in his game. Aside playing top of the line tennis in national tourneys, he has impressed internationally. In the Davis Cup in June, he lost only one singles rubber and was instrumental in Nigeria’s run to the promotional playoffs in Kenya.
Prior to that he played in the three-week ITF Futures event in Abuja and then subsequently, across Africa, particularly in Kampala and Harare, and most recently, in Monastir, Tunisia.
In Monastir, the Nigerian ticked through his three qualifying matches with incredible aplomb to get into the main draws. In his first round match, however, he gave away points cheaply. There were six doubles faults to his name, and he won just 50% of his first serve points. It was a display that has rarely characterized the Nigerian this year.
The Benue-born star, who is fondly called Major, has no significant weaknesses. His backhand is appreciably good and on his day, boasts an incredibly powerful serve. He would only need to check his errors and make the big moments count.
Coupled with his devastating forehand and admirable character on court, Emmanuel has the ticket to thrive. And unlike in national tournaments, where he sometimes had to contend with a partisan crowd, he will have the complete backing of the crowd in Lagos this time as he represents arguably, the nation’s best hope for success. He will arrive the city knowing he will be under the spotlight.
Brimming with confidence and currently in top shape, it is not too much to say the 20-year-old is primed for glory in Lagos.