Murtala B. Habu, IIISunday, February 16, 2003
[email protected]
Cleveland, TN, USA



igeria once known as giant of Africa in sports particularly tennis is now sleeping giant. Poor execution of tennis programs is causing the country tremendously; those responsible for the growths of tennis are not doing enough in continue building what was left. The purpose of this article is to discuss problems facing Nigeria tennis, analyze different generations that played tennis, suggests areas that need improvement and recommend many ways that tennis programming, revenues could be improve.


The game of tennis is the same everywhere. "To see Good Tennis! What divine joy Can fill our leisure, or our minds employ? Let other people play at other things. The King of Games is still the Game of Kings "These are the words of Parker's Piece one of the earliest tennis scientist. France was the sole inventor of tennis before the 12th century and the whole appearance of a tennis court is influenced by its origins. The game became very popular and in the 13th century it is said that there were as many as 1,800 courts in France (J.K. Stephen). Although the game of Kings in Nigeria became first choice sport by the British as dated back in the 1900s; however, tennis became a common sport for all as early as 1945, moreover, the independence in 1960 helped popularize the exciting sport as more and more Nigerians took interest in tennis and as a deliberate policy, tennis was introduced in many schools around the country. This policy helped Nigeria as it became a leading playing nation in Africa and also produced many acclaimed players who won laurels at the international scenes. Therefore, it was not surprised that barley a decade after independence, Nigeria was a member of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Olympic movement and Nigerian players were regular faces in major tournaments in the world. Credit goes to early pioneers who invested their scares material and time resources to further the growth of tennis in the country great people like Ibrahim Usman Sangari, Lord Rumens and Raheem Adejumo are three of those whose contribution is well documented

Tennis today, like virtually all other organized sports in Nigeria, is woefully different, as a direct result of decades of neglect and lack of purpose on the part of its administrators, this special sport of choice that was once the toast of all now lies in comatoes waiting for the imminent undertakers for the final burial rites. Presently, there is no Nigerian ranked player on the ATP and WTA Tours; Nigeria has been completely not doing well in the Davis Cup (men) contest for many years which is the equivalent of World Cup in football, not to mention Federation Cup (women) that Nigeria is yet to participate. Benin Republic, Morocco and Togo for example were not in Nigeria's class in those hey days, now have more caliber players with promising future than the dying giant which like a sick baby, has refused to grow even at the ripe age of almost 43 [By Ernest Ekpenyong , 1/2003].

If half of the money budgeted annually for tennis is used for the right purposes, Nigeria would be competing with the best countries in the world. While tennis administrators are languishing for lack of money to participate in world events, lack of good facilities to prepare athletes for international meets, the administrators are amassing millions of naira by hiring Coach Joop Borens of Netherlands to assist in the development of tennis programs instead of hiring well qualified Nigeria tennis professional in or outside the country to further hide their spending and many other practices.

Purpose of the Article

The game we love and cherish for a very long time is very slowly dying and apparently the Nigeria tennis administrators are not doing enough to revamp the game. In respect to the phenomena this article discuss problems facing Nigeria tennis, analyzes different generations that played tennis, suggests areas needing improvement and put forward recommendations towards plan for growth and/or catch them young Nigeria tennis managers could implement.


Articles in tennis magazines and journals are the secondary sources for the study. Other sources were also utilized.

Literature Review

Nigeria is blessed with five different generations of men and women tennis players. Tennis has given tennis players I had of, or come to know in person the opportunity to explore different dimensions in life. These players have either become national, collegiate, international stars, teaching professionals and/or many have chosen other career parts around the world. In all, tennis was the stating point for everyone and for Nigeria tennis to be shaped these generations have contributed their talent for the advancement of the sport, therefore, the generation mentioned below are what made Nigeria tennis today.

Generation one: included Lawrence Awogbeba, Former Nation Coach, Thompson Onebukun, Edward Agori, Former Assistant National Coach, Bala Habu, Jr, Coach Agayo, Ola Olagbeki, Etta, Adewale Isa on the men side and on the women side is Mrs. Elizabeth Ekon, Former National coach. These players were the best in Africa and did not really compete with the rest of the world class because in the 50s and 60s tennis began to make marks; it was not an open sport for blacks as such generation one played their tennis mostly within African countries. Late Edward Agori was consider the best person ever to hit a consistence backhand in his primed years, his backhand was a weapon, when a player hit to Edward's backhand it was expected that he's not going to miss the shot. Traditionally, generation one women tennis was not fully recognized, therefore the only female player of the time was Mrs. Elizabeth Akon, Former National Coach, Mrs Akon was a good player in her time and have won many tournaments in Nigeria and Africa.

Generation two: consists of Nduka Odizor, Tony Mmoh, Bulus Husseini, Saidu Agori, Sadiq Abdulahi, David Imonite, Henry Ubochi, National Coach, Look Johnson, Kayinde Ajaye, Lai Ogunrunde, R. Oloyide, Romanus Nwazu, Solomon Onna, Smart Omokame, Godwin Keyinka, Steve Olagbeki, Rotimi Akinloye, Richard Akande, Friday Otabor, Remi Osho, Sule Samaila, Segun Balogun, Dauda Mamman, Chris Mamman, Hananiyas Akona, Bitrus Istifanus, Godwin Emeh, Clatus Osagie, Isa Gwange, Morakinyo Akande, Denen Akaa, Barka Maziga, on the men side and the women you have Vero Oyibokiya, Ann Abinuku, Nosa Imafidon, Cecelia Nadozie, Ngozi Morah.

So far, this generation was considered the most successful compared to generation one. Nigeria tennis produced African champions and international stars such as Ndukar Odizor, David Imonite and many others. The generation merged and competed in most of the world grand slam tournaments like; Wimbledon, United States Open, Australian Open, French Open and other events. Nduka Odizor, Tony Mmoh, David Imonite, Bulus Husseini and others for example have competed successfully and were ranked in the world. The generation enjoyed color barriers and most in this generation were awarded tennis scholarship in various schools in the United States and successfully graduated.

The break through of Mrs. Akon in African tennis saw and increased women participation in particular Nigeria, Nigerian women began to play more tennis within and across the globe. Women tennis in this generation at least increased by 60 percent and players like Vero Oyibokiya, Nosa Imafidon have played professional tennis for few years.

Generation three: in generation three you have solid players like Yakubu Suleiman, Bukar Suleiman, Richard Odey, Muritala Ajibade, Jide Sanyaolu, Innocent Maduka, George Obidiegwu, Joseph Obidiegwu, Paul Areh, Peter Adzongo, Emmanuel Ajogo, Tiv Korya, Dayo Akegun, John Atiomon, Bulus Bako, Ubale Mohammed, Mohammed Oyenoye, Samuel Omorigwe, Segun Akinloye, Monday Efumwen, Nemso Ekpenyong and Late Malachai Bolufemi on the men side and on the women side you have Okereke, Aishatu Adamu, Kweju Akomolafe. Like generation one and two, generation three had produced best players in Africa, secured scholarship in the United States, the only exception was that, generation three did not produced good African and international stars compared to generation two. Further, generation three players did not have good number of representation during any of the Davis Cup/Federation Cup Nigeria competed compared to generations two. Since players like Vero Oyibokiya and Nosa Imafidon played in some of the professional tournaments across the globe, that opened the doors for more players into the game, at least 15 to 20 percent increment in generation three women tennis as compared to generation one and two.

Generation Four: in this generation you have Kyrian Nwokedi, James Anukam, Mohammed Abdul, Yahaya Ibrahim, Sani Sa'ad, Danladi Danazumi, Ibrahim Adamu, Nickolas Beedie, Apolos Salfa, Bode Festus, Muse Abiodun, Enitan Akanji, Moses Ajera, , Tom Ikpa, Arumun Surma, Abdulrahaman Idi, Joel Adi, Murtala B. Habu, III, Abdullahi Shehu, Ojo Thompson, Isiaka Ikanbi, Sule Husseini, Daniel Joshua, O. Iyeyemi, Martin Adebisi, Bukar Braimoh, Emeka Igbinebo, Yomi Nweje, Chinedu Nweje, Martin Crampton, Charanjit Singh, Nnamdi Iherem, Ahmad Ataki, Olukoyode Dairo, Sunday Ogundele, Amachi Nweje, Sule Oladipo, Emmanuel Odozor, Kamaru Yusuf, Ganiyu Adisa, Moses Ibgnovia, Ikpomosa Amadin, Gabriel Omuta, Samson Ibgnovia, Emeka Elechi, Niyi Lawal, Gabriel Otu, David Mathew, Ganiyu Adelekon, Rafu Akinyomi, Mati'u Akindele, Desmond Osigwe and on the women side are Late Osas Amadin, Ayo Shele, Mary Amino, Margaret Olagundoye Titi Onoshele, Aishatu Mohammed and Rose Dike.

Nigeria tennis witness tremendous growth, there were many tournaments in the country; companies and individuals sponsored tournaments. What made the generation so fortunate was that generation one, two and three have already broken the color barriers, secured scholarships and played in the international competitions gave Nigeria recognitions in the globe thereby United States schools shafted their recruiting effort to Nigeria. My collegiate Coaches, Dr. Bill Madrey, Jr, Barber Scotia College, Concord, North Carolina, Coach Clifford Johnson, Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Rev. Ron Stinson, Livingston College, Salisbury, North Carolina and also Dr. Roberts Screen, Hampton University were famous among the elite coaches that recruited Nigeria tennis players. The generation by far is the generation that received more scholarships to play and to further their education, personally, I called this generation the "80s generation."

This is one of the generation that women played more International Tennis Federation tournaments around the Africa and European zones. Late Osas Amadin and others traveled extensively in the 80s as compared to generation one-three and tennis in this generation increased by 20 to 31 percent.

In contrast, this generation did not produced champions in Africa and/or most players did not fully pursue carrier in professional tennis, many left Nigerian tennis for United States and other European countries such as England, Holland, Belgium to pursue their dreams, because Nigeria tennis depreciated, poor management and no encouragement whatsoever from the National Tennis Federation.

Generation Five: are Rotimi Jegede, Sunday Jegede, Sunday Maku, Abdulmumini Babalola, Toyin Dairo, Ibukun Ilesanmi, Ayodeji Ajayi, Candi Idoko, Musa Habu, Samaila Habu, Wuyerba Garpia, Emmauel Boshe, Jonathan Igbinovia and on the women side are Niger Singh, Hannah Eke, Alice Izomor, Chizoba Mba, etc. This is not a good period in Nigeria tennis history to play tennis as compared to generation one-four. Men and women in the generation are struggling to meet up with too many demands, for examples; tennis equipment is expensive, visa is difficult to secure, it has to relied on the International Tennis Federation funding and the generation has not high changes of coming out to pursue tennis dreams or further pursue other endeavors and/or most in this generation are struggling to finish secondary schools.

Moreover, the generation has not produced very good players enough to win good matches in Africa or in the world. There are fairly enough tournaments in the country for the generation to play but tournaments are not strong to attract international competitors especially from the western atmosphere compared to generation one-four, where in generation two and three era, world class competitors, Paul Harrus, Netherlands, former world number one Thomas Muster, Austria and others have played in Ogbe Hard Court Championships, Benin, Edo State, Lord Rumens Tennis Classic, Lagos and others came to play in Nigeria.


After all, it is a no-brainer to see that every country, larger or little, has the potential to dominate tennis. Why? Because it only takes two good male and female players to own the tennis sport light. A country with millions of tennis players can easily come in last place in the international competitive world. Sports, like the rest of the world, see change ever more quickly, and the task of developing high performance players is radically different than what it was ten years ago [Vic Braden, November 28, 2002]. Tennis is the number two sport in Nigeria. Identifying and training champions is a matter of setting priorities. The fact that Nigeria produced quality tennis players in the five different generations, Nigeria Tennis Federation has not done enough to be among countries that have good tennis programs because looking at all the generations only Nduka Odizor had extensively played professional tennis, Odizor at his primed and generation was the best player and ranked as high as 40in single and 7 in doubles in the world, until Baron Black, Zimbabwe, Karim Alamin and El Ynaoui of Morocco who broke the chain currently ranked 6 in the world.

Another second generation that followed Odizor's foot steps was Tony Mmoh of Imo State and now Saudi Arabia National Coach- Mmoh played few years and retired due to muscle tire, Mmoh was a better player than Odizor, but Odizor had better opportunity compared to Tony Mmoh. Sule Oladipo from generation four is the lucky guy to have tested the water, Sule played professionally for few years and gave up, this young man had every opportunity to further his career, but no enough sponsorship and that end his career shot. Yakubu Suleiman from generation three, Saddiq Abdullahi, Bulus Husseini, David Imonite and others from generation two played professionally for few years and also gave up due to sponsorship. On the women side, Nigeria has not produced even close to a good female player to represent the nation in any of the world prestigious competitions. Nosa Imafidon and Vero Oyibokiya were little bit closer to been a representation but were not given backup by the Nigerian Tennis Federation.

Every tennis player that grew up and played tennis in Nigeria would testify that the Nigerian Tennis Federation is even more bureaucratic than the Nigeria government. But here is the difference. We know who is responsible for the bureaucracy. Having played in generation four, I knew lots of talented tennis players like myself, players that could have play with the world best and even beat the world best, but here are the problems with the Nigerian Tennis Federation; there are not enough qualified individuals starting from the top to the lower rankings at (NTF office), I saw so little focuses at the office that are not really contributing to the mission of the sport, which is to "Catch them Young," and to grow the overall and the biggest obstacles I saw and I still believe going on now is that people having their own personal agendas and worrying only about moving up the food chain. Instead of defining the motto, targets, strategies to get there, and then figure out who is going to be held accountable. Furthermore, NTF office, is not staffed fully to execute "Plan for Growth" of Nigeria Tennis, for instances, the structured of this office is very poor to do well with other national organizations like the United States Tennis Association, USTA office is not directly structured to teach tennis and travel with United States tennis players alone but also there are other areas that contribute to the organization success in the world. In the USTA office, the office are structured and each office is solidly responsible to the well-being of the USTA. Human resource office of the USTA is responsible for implementing fund raising and inviting memberships, such as inviting companies be among the organization's board of directors. By inviting companies and individuals be part of USTA, USTA is creating an environment to help grow its activities.

If Nigeria really wants to play tennis with the rest of the world, Nigeria Tennis Federation must be fully restructured to adequately produce and not waste players as it happened in the previous generations; the following are highly recommendations to be followed:


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Braden V. (November 28, 2002). Nature, Nurture and High Performance. Developing High Performance Players is Radical Different than what it was even Ten Years Ago. Tennis Week, p22. USA.

Ekpenyong E. [1/25/2003]. Tennis: Lies in Comatoes: This Day Newspapers. Available: [Online] at www.ThisDayonline.com/archive/2001/10/01/20011001sp010.html [1/25/2003].

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Murtala Bala Habu, III - Certified Member, Professional Tennis Registry, United States.