Nigeria’s boys team secured a semifinal berth as Group B runners up at the ongoing ITF West/Central African Junior Championships (AJC) Finals qualifiers for U12 in Cotonou following a 2-1 victory over their Sierra Leonean counterparts on Friday.
Seun Ogunshakin paved the way for Team Nigeria with a 7-6, 6-3 win over Salia Kamara in the day’s opening singles rubber. The 10-year old lefthander had to dig deep in a keenly contested first set but found the second set easier going to put Nigeria 1-0 up.
The Sierra Leoneans drew level in the 2nd singles tie after Precious Ikeuba failed to build on the momentum of a second set win after he had lost the first set. The 11-year old eventually fell in three sets 5-7, 6-3, 4-6.
With the tie level at 1-1, it was left to Ogunshakin and Mohammed Idris to ensure victory in the doubles rubber and the duo duly delivered putting up a performance of grit and passion to triumph 7-6, 6-4 and help Nigeria clinch a spot in the semifinals.
Nigeria finished in second position behind hosts Benin Republic who breezed through their tie with Togo 3-0. Nigeria will vie for a place in the final when they take on Group A winners Ghana in the semifinals while Benin Republic face Mali in the other semifinal encounter.
Winners of both semi-finals will face off in the final with a spot at the AJC Finals event billed for September in Morocco at stake.
Meanwhile, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) declined Nigeria’s request to have nine weeks dedicated solely to junior tennis tournaments. The ITF instead granted the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF) just two weeks in the year for junior tournaments.
The NTF had hoped to pay particular attention to developing junior players this year but will now have to carry out their programmes in a shorter timeframe than originally anticipated. The ITF had initially approved just one week for junior tennis tournaments in the country but following sustained pressure from the NTF decided to extend to two weeks the period allotted junior tennis tournaments.
The ITF approved date for U18 tennis tournaments run from 15-28 July with Abuja selected as the venue.