ITF West/Central African Junior Championships: Mixed Fortunes Trail Nigeria’s Representatives in Benin Republic

The Nigerian team at the ITF West/Central African Junior Championships (AJC) Finals qualifiers for U12 rallied from an uncertain performance on day one to see off Togo 3-0 in the boys’ category while the girls’ team succumbed to a 1-2 loss to host nation, Benin Republic on day two at the Tennis Club de l’Amitié on Thursday.

The eight-nation tournament serves as qualifiers for the AJC Finals billed for Morocco in September, and Nigeria is represented by a six-member team coached by Abdulmumin Babalola and comprising of Seun Ogunshakin, Precious Ikeuba and Idris Mohammed in the boys’ category while Niniola Ajulo, Salamatu Haruna and Imole Afolabi make up the girls’ team. Other teams at the championships include Togo, Benin Republic, Sierra Leone, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, and Ghana.

Salamatu Haruna raced to a 6-1 win in the first set but had to recover from 4-2 down in the second set to dispatch Ijeoma Udensi of host nation Benin Republic 6-1, 6-4 and put Nigeria 1-0 up in the Thursday’s 1st singles rubber. Benin, however, leveled the tie when Imole Afolabi fell to a 6-3, 7-5 defeat against her Beninoise opponent in the 2nd singles rubber.

Benin defeated the Nigerian pair of Salamatu and Niniola Ajulo 6-3, 7-6 in the doubles to win the tie 2-1. The defeat to Benin means the girls’ team can now no longer qualify for the AJC Finals following their 1-2 loss to their Ghanaian counterparts on Wednesday.

In the boys’ category, Seun Ogunshakin put up a near perfect performance to demolish Togolese Xavier Gakpo 6-0, 6-2 in the 1st singles tie while Precious Ikeuba didn’t lose a single game as he inflicted a double bagel on Enock Lawson in the 2nd singles tie.

Ogunshakin and Idris Mohammed teamed up in the doubles with their partnership proving too strong for the Togolese who were swept away in straight sets 6-2, 6-2.

Nigeria’s 3-0 victory over Togo propelled them to joint second with Sierra Leone in Group B who they face in today’s round of matches. A victory for Nigeria will seal the second spot in the group and also guarantee a semi-final berth in the competition. In the other match played in the group, host nation Benin Republic defeated Sierra Leone to maintain their spot at the top of the standings.

The boys’ team had earlier lost their opening tie 1-2 against the hosts Benin Republic on Wednesday while the girls’ team also fell by a similar scoreline to Ghana.