The national wheelchair tennis coach, Frank Tarmena talks about the state of wheelchair tennis in Nigeria.

Twice, in 2012 in Turkey and 2014 in the Netherlands, the Nigerian wheelchair team participated in the World Team Cup, a wheelchair event. Since then, however, the national team hasn’t been able to seal qualification to the event. This year, with the event set to hold in Israel, the Nigerian team moved to Kenya to play in the qualifying event, but fell short there.

The wheelchair tennis national coach, Frank Tarmena has, in an interview, lamented about the current state of the sport and talked about what needs to be done to enable the country qualify for the World Team Cup in the coming years.

“One, early preparations and the right equipment,” coach Tarmena said. “The kind of equipment we are using now are practically outdated. They are not so effective when meeting top players in the world. For example, the chairs we are using are below the height of the tennis net, whereas those guys that are beating us now have those chairs that are well higher than the tennis net level.

“Although tennis is a capital intensive sport, but when you have these modern chairs, you’re able go against any player in the world. The effectiveness of that chair is that it is lighter and faster — one push and you’re getting to the ball, compared to what we have now. We push like four times before we get to the ball thereby losing energy. Energy that you should have been conserved to stay on the court to win points,” he stressed.

“Two, our players need to be attending a lot of tournaments. For you to be a good player, no matter what, you cannot be a good player just within your territory, you have to go out there and play tournaments, mix up with players from different parts of the world before you can become good.

“Over the years, the mistakes we’ve been making in sports in Nigeria is that we believe that we are strong [Nigerian mentality]. Sports is now highly scientific and hi-tech.”

After Nigeria fell short in their qualification bid in Kenya, the coach blamed the weather in the East African nation and also hit out at the machinations of the host nation.

“The weather in Kenya was very harsh leading to our tyres busting and our rackets snapping,” Tarmena said. “And Kenyans made the cost of restringing rackets very high so as to limit foreigners from doing better than them.

“In the nearest future we need to host this same competition to give our players a better chance of also qualifying.”

There will be bright days ahead, however, with the president of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, Dayo Akindoju laying out plans for wheelchair tennis for the 2019 season.

“We are going to be buying 10 additional wheelchairs, we are going to be running a lot of wheelchair clinics in Kano and Minna, which are both settled for now,” the President said. “We are going to the East in Owerri to do some clinics later this year on wheelchair.”