Nigeria clinched Silver medal in beach tennis at the first-ever Africa Beach Games in Sal, Cape Verde on Sunday. The team, comprising Christie Agugbom and Blessing Samuel and coached by Abdulmumin Babalola, came second having won 2 of 3 matches in the women’s doubles category.
Nigeria had lost their opening match to Morocco on the first day, but the excellent chemistry between Christie Agugbom and Blessing Samuel saw the team bounce back strongly to win the remaining two matches against Cape Verde and Algeria and finish on a high in what was a first-ever campaign for them in the sport.
The coach, Babalola attributes their success to the amount of work and dedication they put in training and during matches.
“First of all, I worked on their fitness level and techniques, because the beach tennis movement is different from normal tennis movements,” Babalola said. “It’s all about hard work and determination, from the training ground to the match ground all I asked from them is to give me their 100% and it worked.”
The 34-year-old coach also stressed the importance of introducing the game to kids in Nigeria and is optimistic that if that’s done, the country will produce a world champion.
“It’s better to introduce the game to our kids because it’s fun and it’s a smart game for the kids. I think the President should try and work on this, since the game is still new. I believe we can have world champion in the nearest future in this game.”
Blessing Samuel also shares same sentiment. “Beach tennis in Nigeria can go a long way if people are being exposed to the game,” the 27-year-old said. “Take for instance, we were introduced to the game within a short period of time and we were able to make impact and even take 2nd position.”
The game of beach tennis has similarities with tennis. However, the dissimilarities, as explained by Agugbom, make the game interesting.
“The duration of the match is not up to that of normal tennis because you serve only once,” Agugbom notes. “No second chance unlike in normal tennis where you have to serve a second serve when you make a fault serve.”
Both women will now go into the forthcoming CBN Senior Open brimming with confidence. Since losing the doubles final to the duo of Melissa Ifidzen and Sarah Adegome in 2016, Agugbom and Samuel have won the doubles titles back-to-back.
“It [beach tennis victory] gives room for more confidence to play the [CBN] doubles very well,” Agugbom said.
The team will depart Cape Verde for Nigeria on Monday, 17 June after a worthy debut campaign. Winning a medal at the first time of asking in a sport you only just learnt recently is a thing of pride and joy. And Blessing Samuel relates that emotional state nicely…
“I feel so, so happy and excited.”