3rd April, 2012
Nigeria’s top tennis player, Destiny Ford-Da Silva, in this interview with Damilare Okunola, bared his mind on his tennis career and other issues.
You’ve been playing tennis for some time now?
I’ve been playing for over two decades now and I’m still very active in the game. I’ve also been trying to help upcoming players in the country.
How many tournaments have you taken part in?
That’s a big question because I’ve participated in a lot of tournaments within and outside the country. The ones I can still recall are the Governor’s Cup and the CBN championship, which are just few of the numerous tournaments I’ve featured in. I’ve played ITF features in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, Germany, Spain, Italy and several other countries that I can’t really remember now. I have also been playing in Germany for some time now. I’m home because my club is on break.
You’ve not won trophies, why?
Tennis is not about winning trophies but about gaining points in order to improve on the ITF ranking, which is what is always on my mind whenever I’m on the court playing. One could get to the quarter finals in a particular tournament and fail to go beyond the first round in the other.
Did you get the support of your parents all the way?
Yes and that’s was what really helped me. I had elder brothers who were also playing tennis. Every member of my family was into one sport or the other. So it wasn’t difficult for my parents to give me the go ahead to play tennis. My elder brothers were playing tennis while one of them left tennis for football and played for Borussia Dortmund in Germany. The other one was a top player in Nigeria before he left to play outside the country.
Was there any time you ever thought of quitting tennis?
There was a time I thought of quitting tennis because I was not getting the attention that I needed from the authorities. As a junior player, there were times I qualified for tournaments, but was dropped because I did not have godfathers in the sports ministry. The excuse of the officials was that I was undisciplined. It is ironical that when one is asking for his right in this country, some people would see him as being unruly. Before the All Africa Games in Maputo, I was in camp training with other players, they dropped me from going to the Games despite the fact that I qualified to represent the country. This made me sad and I thought of quitting.
What keeps you on?
The love for this country is the greatest motivation that keeps me going. I believe there is no place like home and that give me the strength to continue playing. Apart from that, nothing else motivates me.
Any happy moment for you in the game?
One of my happiest moments was when I defeated a top seeded player at the Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship in Lagos in 2007. The player was from Israel. He was the No.2 player of that year’s Governor’s Cup and 120 in the world. I played from the qualifiers into the Main Draws. I was not given any chance in my game with the Israeli star, but it was a sweet upset. I crashed out of the tourney in the quarter final stage. Another reason I was very happy was that I was the only Nigerian player who performed very well at that year’s championship.
Your lowest moment so far?
There was a year I lost out in the final of a tournament. I was very sad. In fact, for several weeks, I wasn’t myself because I felt I stood the chance of winning the tournament yet I lost.
Can you let us into your background?
I’m a Lagosian by birth but from Osun State. I’m from a family of seven, five boys and two girls and I happen to be the last born of the family. Every child in the family is married including me. I have a three-year old daughter, whom I named Serena Da Silva.
How has it been combining parenthood with tennis?
It has been easy for me with the grace of God. At least, tennis pays my bills and puts food on my table. I have a tennis club that I play for in Berlin, Germany. We’re currently on break that’s why I’m in the country. When we resume, I’ll go back to Germany, playing to continue with my tennis again.
What has tennis done for you?
Tennis has done a lot for me and if not for tennis I’d have been working in an office because I studied Business Administration at the University of Lagos. I’ve been travelling overseas since I was eight to participate in tennis tournaments. So you can see that tennis has really helped me. Tennis has also given me the exposure that I have now. I had known a lot of things that I might not have gotten the opportunity to know in life today. Let me conclude by saying that without tennis, I wouldn’t have become anybody and all these things were from God.
Despite this high level of exposure, you’ve not been able to perform so well at the Governor’s Cup.
For a Nigerian to perform very well at the Governor’s Cup, the player must have played in so many international tournaments. It has been hard for some of us to play circuits around the world because of funds.
How would you compare Nigerian tennis players to their foreign counterparts?
The only thing we possess more than the foreigners is our strength. We’ve got the raw energy to play the game but we can’t meet up with them in other ways. They get the best facilities and are technical in their style of play. They take tennis as a career and follow it with passion. They also have financial support, but here in Nigeria, the players have to cater for themselves to survive.
Do you think there’s hope for tennis in this country?
I don’t think anything can be achieved without sponsorship. The whole system is down and the government can’t really help us. Corruption has also eaten deep into the system. It is hard to get sponsors. It seems there is no way out except God intervenes.
Your role model?
My role model is Pete Sampras and the other player I like is Roger Federer. Pete Sampras kept a clean slate throughout his playing days. I like him because of his off court behaviours; he was without scandals and that’s what I try to emulate.
Roger Federer would never argue with any umpire for any reason, even when decisions were against him and the same was applicable to Sampras. Those are the things I’ve also tried to do in my tennis career.
Any advice to upcoming tennis players?
They must go to school because without education, they may never achieve anything. More so, if tennis doesn’t yield the required dividend, they can fall back on their education.
They also have to be very determined and have self-discipline with parental support. It’s determination and self-discipline that got me to where I am today.