The 13th edition of the CBN Junior Tennis Championships came to a close at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan on Saturday, with Omolade Aderemi, Suleiman Ibrahim, and David Dawariye, who claimed the boys 16 & Under title, among other winners in the various categories.
The week-long event, which featured the Boys’ and Girls’ Under-10, Under-12, Under-14 and Under-16 categories, had players from all over the country battling for top honours.
Suleiman Ibrahim and Omolade Aderemi received the Most Outstanding Player awards in the male and female categories, respectively.
Suleiman, who’s from Abuja, had lost in the Boys 16 finals to defending champion, David Dawariye of Rivers, 10-4, 7-10, 10-8. However, his brilliant play all week and also, his spirited effort in the final, which saw him rally from a set down to win the second set and take the match to a close final set, endeared him to the crowd who gave him a standing ovation during the award ceremony.
“I think I played really well,” said Suleiman when asked why he received a standing ovation. “I was nervous at the start but I will work hard to ensure that the result is different next time.”
Meanwhile, Omolade Aderemi from Ondo, received the Most Outstanding Player in the girls category. Aderemi won the girls 16 finals, with a comfortable 10-5, 10-1 victory over Omolayo Bamidele of Ekiti. Aderemi, who lost in the semifinals of the last junior tournament a month ago, completely turned the table around this time, beating defending champion, Rebecca Ekpenyong, in the semifinals and, now twice runner-up, Bamidele in the finals.
There were also exciting final matches in other age group categories on the final day.
In the boys 12 & Under category, Seun ‘Nadal’ Ogunsakin, successfully defended his title, beating Lucky ‘Federer’ Danjuma, a very exciting player from Abuja, 10-5, 10-7, while Nene Yakubu from Lagos capped off a memorable campaign by beating Favour Amaechi from Rivers 13-11, 10-2 to secure the title. Nene had fended off a couple of set points in the first set before powering to victory in the second set.
In the girls 14 & Under category, Serena Teluwo of Lagos defeated Abuja’s Salamatu Haruna, who just moved up to the U-14 category, 10-5, 10-7 to claim the title, while David Ekpeyong of Akwa Ibom clinched the boys 14 title with a 10-4, 10-2 victory over Ganiyu Mubarak from Oyo.
Elsewhere, Arwal Jaji from Lagos bounced back from a first set loss to beat Yohanna Yakubu of Abuja 6-10, 10-7, 10-7 and claim the boys 10 & Under title, while Lorelax Holzendorf from Edo took down her teammate, Esther Ehimebe 10-5, 2-10, 10-5 to win the girls’ 10 title.
The young players had some tennis history lessons from the MCs who introduced Nduka Odizor, Nigeria’s tennis legend, who was special guest of honour. Odizor was ranked as high as 52 in the world and played in all the four Grand Slams for many years.
The Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, in his brief address delivered by the Director, Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor, expressed satisfaction with the progress being made in the development of the game at the junior level and commended the International Tennis Academy (ITA) for the great job of harnessing and developing talent all over the nation.
“We cannot have any better evidence of the success of our investment in our Nigerian youth than the emergence of champions from all parts of the nation. From this years event you can see champions from the North, East, South and West and this is good evidence that the ITA [International Tennis Academy] is doing a good job of reaching all the talent that abound all over the nation.”
The top juniors are expected to assemble at the end of the month for the SNEPCo Junior Tennis Championship which, according to the ITA, will be used to prepare the girls in the 16 age category for the CBN Senior Championship.