It has been 12 years since a Nigerian won in any category at the Lagos Open Tennis Tournament and with the situation unlikely to change this year, Tournament Director, Wale Oladunjoye contends that ensuring the status of the Lagos Open as Africa’s premier tennis competition which attracts the presence of leading players is more important than “hosting to win”.
The Lagos Open, which serves off on Monday, 7 October at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, is Africa’s premiere ITF tennis tournament alongside the M25+ events in Abuja and regularly attracts many of the world’s leading players who compete for ranking points and a share of the $100,000 prize money on offer in the two-legged tournament.
This year, Tunisian player Skander Mansouri who is ranked 341 in the world and the 384 ranked Valeriya Strakhova of Ukraine headline the men and women’s draws respectively where they will be joined by over 147 players from 47 countries including the USA, France, Britain, Canada, Russia, Australia, Austria, Mexico, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, China, Portugal, Spain, Brazil and Argentina among others.
Now in its 19th year, not since the pair of Abdulmumin Babalola and Jonathan Igbinovia combined to win the men’s doubles title in 2005 and teamed up to repeat the feat two years later has a Nigerian triumphed at the event in any category.
Reversing this trend and ensuring Nigerian players become a lot more competitive, Oladunjoye says, will require a lot of targeted work from every stakeholder in the long term.
For this edition of the Lagos Open, the tournament director believes Nigeria’s chances of making a mark will be severely affected by the loss of Christie Agugbom to injury and the shallow talent pool in the men’s draw but he, however, tipped precocious teenage prospect Oyinlomo Quadre who made the R16 in the first leg of the tournament last year to spring a pleasant surprise.
“Unfortunately, we lost the one girl [Christie Agugbom ] who could have done that [gone far in the tournament] as a result of injury but we are looking for other players who can do so much and we are looking at [Oyinlomo] Quadre, we are looking at some other younger players I think so much can happen but like we mentioned, all of us should be able to work at this and get this done,” Oladunjoye told busybuddiesng.com
While Oladunjoye would love to see a Nigerian winner emerge, he maintains that, notwithstanding Nigeria’s status as hosts, the essence of the Lagos Open isn’t necessarily ensuring a Nigerian winner emerges but ensuring that the tournament always is the top destination for the leading players on the African continent.
This he says would be beneficial for the development of domestic players who get to compete against and observe some of the winning habits of more established foreign players.
“Hosting is not to win,” Oladunjoye told busybuddiesng.com. “Hosting is to get the best to come to Nigeria and for them to rub shoulders with the best with the view to improve their skills and how they generally prepare for this type of tournament which they cannot go and do if they are unable to get to the Open tournament in Brazil, the one in Germany [and] the one in Japan.”
The Lagos Open holds in two legs from 7-20 October with the first leg holding from 7-13 October, while the second leg serves off from 14-20 October.
Each leg has a prize-money of $50,000, with $25,000 each for the men and women categories with every player in the main draw guaranteed a slice of the purse.
Winners in the singles for both the men and women categories will receive $3,000 while the losing finalists will get $1,700. In the doubles, winners will receive $1,200 while losing doubles finalists will split $1,200.
Nigeria’s charge will be led by Joseph Imeh, Sylvester Emmanuel, Paul Emmanuel and Mohammed Mohammed who will all look to scale through qualifying to the main draw in the men’s category.
In the women’s event nine Nigerians will compete in the qualifying round led by promising teenage sensation, Oyinlomo Quadre, who reached the round of 16 in the first leg last year, Sarah Adegoke, Blessing Anuna, Aanu Aiyegbusi, Blessing Samuel, Oiza Yakubu, Racheal Adunoye, Omolade Aderemi and Osariemen Airhunwhunde.