As hostilities kicked off on Tuesday at the 3rd Rainoil/Ikoyi Club Masters Tennis Championship in Lagos, one of the aims of the tournament is to see Nigerian players compete at the Grand Slams – the highest level of the sport.
Group Managing Director of Rainoil, Gabriel Ogbechie made this declaration by highlighting the $90,000 scholarship the energy firm gave to Sylvester Emmanuel, one of the top players in the country.
The 19-year-old Kaduna-based player, Sylvester is currently honing his skills at the Pereriba Tennis Academy in Barcelona, Spain, having left Nigeria last month.
“We are not just putting our resources into tennis to show off; we also want to make sure that we back our talented players to fulfil part of their dreams which is to play in any of the tennis four Grand Slams. In the case of Emmanuel, we sought for his record and noticed his phenomenal rise.
“In the past, Nigeria used to have players in the Grand Slams, notable of whom is Nduka Odizor, who reached the fourth round in Wimbledon. We believe we still have players that are equally talented as Odizor to make us hit global limelight in tennis again,” he stated.
Ogbechie pointed that the prospect shown by Emmanuel, who against the odds, emerged champion in the first edition, inspired their action.
Meanwhile, Thomas Otu and Christy Agugbom are the top seeds for this year’s event which has N1.5m as prize money.
Otu, alongside Joseph Imeh, Emmanuel Sunday and Christian Paul will vie for the two tickets in the men’s group A (Shipping) just as defending champion, Clifford Enosoregbe, Abdulmumuni Babalola, Nonso Madueke and Emmanuel Idoko are to slug it out in group B (Logistics).
Agugbom, the winner of the inaugural edition will face Christie Nwankwo, Ronke Akingbade and Angel McLeod in the women’s group A (Marketing), while group B (Bulk Storage) has defending champion, Sarah Adegoke, Patience Onebamhoin, Loveth Donatus and Omotayo Ibrahim, who replaced Blessing Samuel.