Nigeria’s Musa Mohammed competed in the main draw of the ITF World Tennis Tour events in Abuja this month—the Tombim Abuja Open, the Dayak Tennis Championships and the GSL Open—and gave a good account of himself. Before now, he had never played in the main draw of an ITF World Tennis Tour tournament.
At the Tombim Open, he came agonizingly close to making the second round. Cramps in the final set against Maxime Mora of France hampered his chances, as he bowed out 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(6). He also made first round appearances at the Dayak Championships and the GSL Open.
5 years ago, when the ITF World Tennis Tour events in Abuja began, Mohammed, who’s now aged 17, was only a ball boy, retrieving and feeding balls to players on court.
His progress from being a ball boy to competing through the ranks of junior tournaments in Nigeria, and now to the ITF World Tennis Tour is amazing. Ikani Agabi, the tournament director of the ITF World Tour events in Abuja, talks about Mohammed’s journey so far.
“Musa Mohammed grew up around the stadium,” Agabi began. “His parents are nomads who live in the hut around the stadium and basically Musa Mohammed started here as a ball boy several years ago, probably 10 years ago.
“He picked up a racket without any guidance and without a coach and he started playing. He then came under the mentorship of one of the local coaches, who used to organize coaching sessions for them and competitions for them. He used to also play in the competitions I also organized.”
According to the tournament director, the young boy had the makings of a good player, and it was evident right from when he started competing in junior events and winning them.
“We knew he was a talent then because he won all the tournaments in his age category, from the Under-12 to the Under-14, Under-16,” said Agabi.
“When this idea was conceived 5 years ago of having a Futures in Abuja, Musa Mohammed was one of the first ball boys we used and he was ball boy for 2 years running.”
“It’s quite heartwarming to see that he has developed into an amazing player from being one of the ball boys at the tournament. He represents the future of tennis in Nigeria. I strongly believe that he will make a huge impact on tennis if he keeps his focus and remains disciplined throughout.
“It’s an amazing story from being a ball boy to playing in the main draw of an ITF World Tennis Tour tournament. We want more stories like that and we believe that Musa Mohammed would do a great deal and if the current trend continues, we will have more stories like him.”