The Director of the International Tennis Academy, Godwin Kienka is optimistic about the chances of the junior players at this week’s CBN Senior Open in Abuja.
This year’s CBN Senior Open tournament has seen an increase in the main draw size of both the men’s and women’s singles categories and has made accommodation for more junior players, especially those transiting from the junior circuit to the senior’s, to compete and challenge for the title. As a result, most of the wildcards available for the event were given to the junior players.
Among the lot, who will kick-start their campaign in Abuja on Monday, Kienka picked Omolayo Bamidele, Omolade Aderemi, Favour Moses and Jumai Mohammed—all of whom competed and reached the semifinals of the Zenith Bank Next Gen Masters in Lagos earlier this month—as those to watch out for this week.
The director is hoping the girls can put together a strong week in their respective campaigns and upset the odds in Abuja.
“If they have a good draw and they get past the 1st round and shed those nerves, we are hoping at least one of them should get to the semifinals,” Kienka said.
“They are very steady,” the director said of the girls’ game play. “Omolayo and Jumai are very steady, even if Jumai is a late starter, she is still very steady. Once she gets her groove, she’d be tough to beat.
“Same thing with Omolayo, if she is on and in the right frame of mind, she can beat anybody. Favour is a bit erratic, but I’m sure the one week camping in Abuja would have solved that problem.”
With a host of other talented players set to battle it out for glory in the women’s draw, the director harbours hope of a semifinal finish, at least, for some of the juniors. More so, there will be a bonus prize for any of the juniors who emerge victorious.
“Semifinals at least,” Kienka said when asked about the target set for the juniors. “If one or two of them makes the semis, we will be fine. We are also pushing them to win, we have a N500,000 bonus for them [If they win the title].
“We are pushing them to the moon, but if they hit the sky, we would be happy.”
Seven out of eight girls who competed at this month’s Zenith Bank Next Generation Junior Tennis Masters in Lagos came into Abuja for the event. However, only 5 made it to the main draw, 2 with their ranking (Omolayo Bamidele and Omolade Aderemi), 1 wildcard (Favour Moses) and 2 via the qualifying rounds (Jumai Mohammed and Toyosi Adeusi). Chidinma Ezeh and Destiny Okhinaye didn’t make it past the qualifiers.
Serena Teluwo and Oiza Yakubu, both of whom came through the qualifiers and Iye Onoja, who received a wildcard, are also among the junior players competing this week.
The CBN Senior Open is live from the National Tennis Centre in Abuja from 24 – 29 June.