BY JOHN EGBOKHAN
The tale of woes at the First City Monument Bank-sponsored Governor’s Cup Futures I, reached its height yesterday following the ouster of the three Nigerians left in the men’s singles draw.
The Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan, venue of the ITF-sanctioned was devoid of its usual vibrancy because of the exit of Clifford Enosoregbe, Christian Paul and Joseph Umeh in the second round of the event.
In what has become Nigeria’s worst outing in the 13 years old tournament, yesterday’s ouster ofg the last trio further raises questions on the state of Nigerian tennis, a game which once produced sueprb players like Nduka Odizor, David Imonite and Sule Ladipo, who won the maiden edition of the Governor’s Cup.
Enosoregbe can take come positives from his 3-6, 3-6 loss to top seed from Japan, Hiroki Kondo. But for Christian Paul, his 0-6, 0-6 thrashing by Borna Coric from Croatia, has fuelled claims by many that Nigerian tennis was in a recession.
Joseph Umeh late tried to put a gloss to the Nigerian parade here when he confronted India’s Mithun Murali in the last singles match on the Lord |Rumens Court.
After losing the first set 4-6, Umeh won the second 6-4 to send the match to a deciding third set, which he tamely lost 0-6, to mark a disastrous end for Nigerians.
Reacting to the failure, national coach Ishicheli Benson said it was depressing that the players failed to raise their game when the ovation was loudest.
“It has been the same old story. I feel bad because the NTF and the LOC called the players for camping but the senior ones did not attend.”
“You can see that those junior players that came for the camping performed very well with some of them fighting their ways from the qualifying round to the second round on Wednesday.
”It is so sad even with the promises of the LOC and the sponsors to sponsor any player who perform very well to circuits, these players failed to up their game when it matters most.”
In other matches, seed two from Russia Nina Bratchikova lost in two sets of 4-6, 2-6 to Italy’s Giola Barbieri while India’s Prathana Thombare defeated women’s third seed Eva Birnerova from Czech 6-1,6-2.