By Onochie Anibeze
After Rolake Olagbegi played in the circuit, once partnering Zina Garrison in the doubles in the late 80s, Clara Udofa, discovered and trained by Godwin Kienka became the next female potential Nigeria had to challenge the big names in the circuit.
But that chance was blown when Kienka stopped managing the girl who became the national champion at 14. Kienka convinced Yusuf Ali, the then Managing Director of Unipetrol to sponsor Clara and the sky was going to be her limit until people around the girl stopped Kienka apparently with the hope of managing the millions of money that they foresaw coming her way in future.
But that step killed whatever future the girl had in tennis.
Bade may not know the story of Clara Udofa but he hopes to assist in turning Marylove into a star that could shine outside these shores. After he suffered a 3-6, 3-6 defeat in the hands of the girl at the tennis court of Golden Tulip Hotel in Lagos, April 10, Bade fixed another match with Kenny Oye, a music artiste who is also a champion at CBN Estate in Satellite in Lagos.
The plan is make Marlove strong by fielding her against men. Kenny is the club champion in Satellite. He is well built and very physically endowed. But he fell 4-6 in the first set before rallying to take next sets 6-4, 6-3. Marylove shed a tear and hoped to do better next time.
She had tormented Bade himself after his training stint in South Africa and the telecommunications consultant now feels he could help her grow in the game. Last Saturday he fixed another match with Emmanuel Phillip, a tennis player who should be playing competitions but who has resorted to coaching because there are no tournaments in Nigeria. Emma was with Bade in South Africa for training.
It meant nothing to Marylove who dismissed him 7-5, 6-3. Emma once led 5-2 in the first set before Marylove gained confidence, changed her game and played some shots that attracted applause.
A fan kept shouting “Marylove, I’m in love,” to which another fan each time added “with your game”, apparently to disabuse minds. Fans cheered and Bade became more confident that his efforts and those of Marlove’s father would not be in vain. Another match is in the making. Marylove is a national rising player.