With the inaugural edition of the NTF International Junior Championships now over, we take a look at three players who completely amazed us during the two-week event.
Abua put his talent on full display for all to see. The youngster, who was 14 at the time, secured a main draw spot via the qualifiers and worked his way through the draw in sublime fashion, scoring outstanding wins against Morocco’s 2nd seed, Assil Boussayari and 3rd seed, Emmanuel Jebutu along the way. Without conceding a set, Abua reached the first leg final, where he beat Musa Mohammed 7-6(2), 6-3 for his first ITF Junior title in his debut appearance on the circuit.
He would come up short in the quarter-finals of the second leg, but there’s no doubt that the youngster has a promising future.
For a player who, before the event, had never competed on the ITF Junior Circuit, his run was as surprising as it was remarkable. Not so surprising, however, as the 17-year-old had always shown promise. Only five months ago, he claimed the Zenith Bank Next Gen Masters in Lagos. At the Grade 5 Abuja event, Mohammed, after getting past the qualifiers, ticked through the singles draw efficiently to reach the final, where Canice Abua ultimately proved too clever for him.
Mohammed would brush off the disappointment to make his second straight final in the second leg. This time, however, he emerged victorious, beating Abayomi Philips 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-2 for his maiden title-triumph on the ITF Junior Circuit. He also added the doubles titles to his honours, partnering Desmond Ayaaba.
In only her 7th tournament since her return from the IMG Academy in Florida, Marylove Edwards reached her first ITF Junior finals and went one better by clinching her maiden title, defeating Ivory Coast’s Blanche Minet in the final. Her quarterfinal victory against Jade Haller of Switzerland in the first leg, where she came back from the brink of defeat to win 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) underlined the youngster’s tenacity.
She would make another terrific run to the final in the second leg, before falling to Oyinlomo Quadre – her only match loss the entire tournament.
Despite being eliminated in the quarter-finals of the first leg, Abayomi Philips produced stronger performances in the second leg to reach the final – his fourth career final on the ITF Junior Circuit. He, however, couldn’t get past Musa Mohammed. Great run, regardless. It catapulted him 108 spots to No. 476 on the ITF World Junior Rankings.
Jebutu, for the first time, made the semifinals on the ITF Junior Circuit when he reached the last four in the first leg before going out to eventual champion, Canice Abua. The 15-year-old repeated his performance the following week, when he took out Azamata Friday, Fredrick Ojo and first leg champion, Canice Abua, all in straight sets, before he lost to eventual champion, Musa Mohammed, in three sets, in the semifinals.
He’s shown that he has the game the excel. The future looks good for the Nigerian.