50th Anniversary special: Great Tennis Players Since Independence


Nigeria’s independence in 1960 helped popularise the exciting sport of tennis as more and  more Nigerians took interest in the game and as a deliberate policy, tennis was  introduced in many schools around the country.

This policy helped Nigeria as it became a leading playing nation in Africa and also  produced many acclaimed players who won laurels at the international scenes. Murtala Habu  wrote  in the An Analysis Of Generations That Played The Game Of Tennis In Nigeria  that  “it was not surprising that barley a decade after independence, Nigeria was a member of  the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Olympic movement and Nigerian players  were regular faces in major tournaments in the world. Credit goes to early pioneers who  invested their scare resource and time to further the growth of tennis in the country,  great people like Ibrahim Usman Sangari, Lord Rumens and Alhaji Raheem Adejumo.”

Some of the great tennis players the country had in the last 50 years included the late  Lawrence Awogbeba, a former national coach, Thompson Onibokun, who is the chairman,  technical committee of the Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship since inception 10  years ago, Edward Agori, a former assistant national coach, Bala Habu, Jr, Coach Agayo,  Ola Olagbegi, Etta and Adewale Isa, who Habu regarded as the first generation of Nigerian  tennis players.

In the second generation are Nduka Odizor, an Olympian,  Tony Momoh, former Nigeria  Tennis Federation, NTF boss and CAT chieftain, Bulus Husseini, Saidu Agori, Sadiq  Abdullahi, David Imonite, Henry Ubochi, National Coach, Luke Johnson, Kayinde Ajaye, Lai  Ogunrunde, R. Oloyide, Romanus Nwazu, Solomon Onna, Smart Omokame, Godwin Keyinka, Steve  Olagbegi, Rotimi Akinloye, Richard Akande, Friday Otabor, Remi Osho, Sule Samaila, Segun  Balogun, Dauda Mamman, Chris Mamman, Hananiyas Akona, Bitrus Istifanus, Godwin Emeh,  Clatus Osagie, Isa Gwange, Morakinyo Akande, Denen Akaa and Barka Maziga, who competed in  most of the world’s grand slam tournaments like Wimbledon, United States Open, Australian  Open, French Open and other events. Nduka Odizor, Tony Momoh, David Imonite, Bulus  Husseini and others for example have competed successfully and were ranked in the world.

Among the top women players who did Nigeria proud in the last 50 years are Vero  Oyibokiya, Ann Abinuku, Nosa Imafidon, Cecelia Nadozie, Ngozi Morah, Okereke, Aishatu  Adamu and Kweju Akomolafe.

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These great players have done a lot to give back to the society which made them. For  example, Imonite, a former national champion, founded the Miracle Tennis Resources  Centre; he and Godwin Kienka, Director of Tennis Academy, have organised series of junior  tournaments and training programs in order to discover promising young players. One of  the most successful ones was the first-ever Under 24 National Tennis Circuit. The circuit  has four tournaments: T & M Open, Edel Build Open, the Nigerian Bottling Company Open,  and the Lawrence Awopegba Open.

Abdullahi, who holds a doctorate degree in education, specialises in curriculum  development, instructional delivery, international and global education, comes to Nigeria  to hold clinic for the junior players.

Abdullahi is currently a teacher of American government and economics at a secondary  school, and an adjunct professor at Florida International University in Miami, FL. He  does sports and educational consulting. He was the Nigerian tennis champion and a member  of the 1988 Nigerian Olympic team.

There are other players who made names in Nigerian tennis in the last 50 years of  thecountry’s independence.

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