Tennis: Why Local Players Failed At Gov’s Cup

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Nigeria’s highest ranked player, Sanni Adamu, told DAMILARE OKUNOLA, in this interview, the reason behind the poor performance of Nigerian players in the Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis Championship over the years.

You just returned from Rwanda where you went to play an ITF Futures. What was your experience over there?

It was a pleasant one, which I’ll always treasure as a tennis player. It was very revealing and showed me just how good I could be if I keep attending such international  tournaments.

We learnt that you played on clay as against the hard court that you are used to here in Nigeria. What difference did it make from what you are used to?

Honestly, it was a totally different experience for me because I’m not so familiar with playing on clay courts but I put in my best and played second round in the singles while I partnered Henry Atseye to reach the quarter-final of the doubles. I think it is more difficult on clay, especially if you are not used to it.

At a time when Nigerian players have been clamouring for sponsorship, how did you manage to raise money for the Rwanda trip?

For that, I’ll say that I am a lucky individual to have people who still believe in me. I have some sponsors in Abuja who I can’t appreciate enough for facilitating the trip to Rwanda.

How well has your game improved since you returned from Rwanda?

Basically, it increased my confidence on the court. It increased my consistency and showed me that I can be a better player if I continue at that rate.

Despite the improvement, Nigerian players, including you, were all dumped out of the Governor’s Cup at the second round of the first leg. What may have been the cause?

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I don’t think it is something that is strange to tennis followers in this country anymore. We lack sponsorship and the right motivation. More so, we have some ‘bad belle’ people who don’t want to see you grow. When I was a junior player, I was very hot but people somehow, frustrated my efforts. We really need to look into the issue of sponsorship as the tournament ends so that the foreign players won’t always go with the trophy.

But the foreigners look superior to the Nigerian players?

I won’t agree with you on that. Most of those guys attend at least twenty tournaments in a year and you want us to be at par with them? If I had attended more ITF circuits before this Governor’s Cup, you would have seen the outcome in my performance.

How do you think Nigerian tennis can improve?

In my opinion, the upcoming players should be given proper training and exposure. We should also ensure that talents are appreciated because if I had been given a similar opportunity when I was much younger, I’m sure I would have gone really farther than what we are experiencing today.

You are Nigeria’s highest ranked player on the ATP, how do you hope to maintain this?

Well, that’s simple. Play more ITF Futures, improve my game, rake in more points and the ranking swells.

The second leg got underway yesterday with several other Nigerians in action. Will there be any form of improvement?

I only hope that luck smiles on us this time around because tennis could be that funny. We always put in our best but it doesn’t seem to always count due to the exposure that our foreign counterparts have and that’s the edge that they always have every year.