By Franklin Ohaegbu
The just-concluded 7th Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Junior Tennis Tournament, which ended on March 9, has been adjudged as a successful event by stakeholders.
This, the stakeholders noted, was based on the fact that no fewer than 152 players drawn from 10 states across the country participated in the tournament that ran from March 4 to March 9.
Some of the states that sent players to the event, included Anambra, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Edo, Imo, Ilorin and Kaduna.
It is believed that the attendance at the just-concluded edition was impressive, given the fact that only five states turned up at the 6th edition held in 2012.
However, one remarkable thing about the immediate-past tournament was the fact that ‘an upcoming star’ in the making, MaryLove Edwards, from Lagos, was identified at the tournament.
The 7-year-old Edwards, during some matches against players that were even far older than her in the Girls U-12, thrilled the audience by the quality of tennis that she played.
She became ‘a giant killer of sorts’ as her performance was so impressive that it hardly reflected her age or height.
Against one 10-year-old Bose Are, from Ilorin in the semi-finals, she made mince-meat of her opposition by outplaying her 9-0 in a pro set.
Edwards, standing at 4 feet tall, did not lose any match in the entire round-robin series.
She ‘stole’ the show during the competition as she edged past all her opponents with ease, to win the title.
Indeed, her performance earned her the ‘Most Valuable Player,’ (MVP) in the competition from the International Tennis Academy (ITA) junior circuit panel.
Mr Sam Egbuchunam, President of the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, who was moved by the superlative performance of Edwards, awarded her ‘a life membership of the prestigious club’.
One of the glamorous additions to the fun during the tournament was an exhibition match that featured a former Super Eagles skipper, Austin ‘Jay Jay ‘Okocha and veteran Nollywood actor, Kanayo O. Kanayo.
Although both were casual players of tennis, they nevertheless entertained guests at the club, at the end of which the flamboyant Okocha prevailed, 6-2 over the actor.
Ugo Okoroafor, the Director, Corporate Communications, CBN said in his address: “the future is bright for tennis as the Bank is looking up to players who have got this talent and can take it to the next level.
“I am happy to say that we are pleased with the result we have seen and the talents on display.
“These are rare talents here, especially that of MaryLove Edwards who won in her category given the fact that she was the youngest amongst them.
“It goes a long way to show that these talents can further be nurtured and groomed to greater heights,’’ he said.
Sani Ndanusa, the President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF), who doubles as president of the Nigeria Olympic Committee assured that the NTF would do all in its powers to make her (Edwards) a world class player.
He then thanked the sponsors and the National Sports Commission for their support toward the staging of the championship.
Ndanusa noted that the CBN was one of the contributors to the development of tennis in the country.
NAN reports that the event, which featured four categories (U-10, U-12, U-14 and the U-16) had a new category, (the Futures), to bring the total categories to five.
The event was organised by the ITA, in conjunction with the NTF and bankrolled by the CBN.