Nigeria successfully defended the ITF/CAT West and Central Africa Junior Championships in Lome, Togo at the weekend.
The 12-man Nigerian team garnered 950 points at the ten-day tournaments which featured 111 players from 11 countries.
The win reaffirms Nigeria’s status as the regional superpower, as Mohammed Ubale-tutored team fought off a strong challenge from Cote d’Ivoire to keep the regional title for the six-straight year.
Benin Republic and Cameroun came third and fourth with 780 and 715 points respectively.
Cote d’Ivoire, who finished second on 800 points, had threatened to dethrone Nigeria after Day 6 restricting the defending champions to one gold, one silver and one bronze but Nigeria had a strong finish to post another memorable outing at the tournament which serves as qualifiers for the African Junior Championships billed for South Africa in March.
Aside from emerging the overall winners, Nigeria’s impressive display saw the boys’ team bagged qualification for the Junior Davis Cup as well as the World Team Cup while the girls’ team also secured their place in the Junior Fed Cup. All the tournaments will hold later in the year and this is also the first time Nigeria will be qualifying for all the tournaments from a single competition.
Nigeria Tennis Federation President, Sani Ndanusa expressed delight at the performance of Nigerian players stating that the federation’s commitment to the development of the game particularly at junior level will be sustained with renewed vigour.
Nigeria’s title hope was almost slipping off with the injury sustained by Marylove Edward which forced her to forfeit the girls’ 14 and under title to compatriot, Oyinlomo Quadri and more crucially, her withdrawal from the doubles which denied the country a significant number of points but the team still prove its superiority with half of its representatives securing their places in the AJC.
In addition to Oyinlomo and Marylove, the quartet of Michael Osewa, Michael Ayoola, Matthew Abamu and David Dawariye, who defeated Andre Sydina of Senegal to the last ticket in the boys’ 14 and under category, will be rubbing shoulders with qualifiers from other regions of the continents. It also means Nigeria has the highest number of qualifiers from the CAT Zone 2.