Nigeria must regain its place in world tennis, says US-based Ehirim
Former Nigerian number one tennis player and Davis Cup star, Nnamdi Ehirim says he is committed in his desire to ensure the country regained her place among the comity of tennis playing nations in the world.
Ehirim, who is based in the United States of America, is now the Development Officer of the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF).
Currently making waves in the US as tennis coach, Ehirim has been in the heart of tennis development back home. He is an assistant coach to the non-playing captain of Nigeria’s Davis Cup team, Rotimi Akinloye, and works with the country’s top two tennis players, Christian Paul and Ikechukwu Iloputa.
Christian Paul is a member of the country’s Davis Cup team and also competes in International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments like Ikechukwu. The ex-international has vowed to take them to greater heights.
He says he believes in hard work and results. “In my playing days, I excelled in Nigeria because I worked hard and had the opportunity of playing among the best Nigerian tennis players,” he recalled.
Apart from playing for the Nigeria Davis Cup team, Ehirim rose to 54 in ITF men’s ranking, and in 2016, justified his ranking by recording back-to-back triumphs in the men’s senior ITF tournaments in Frankfurt, Germany and in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
“I really feel honoured to be working with Nigeria’s Davis Cup team, especially with Christian Paul, who is a Davis Cup player, and also Ikechukwu Iloputa who is a top Nigerian player and ITF ranked star. Ikechukwu has risen to 766 in ITF ranking and is in the top 15 in Nigeria, while Paul is ranked 1257 in ATP singles ranking and 1374 in doubles. He is also ranked 1589 in ITF men’s singles rankings and 1257 in the doubles. I hope to bring my experience from across the world to bear on them and the national team in general,” he said.
Ehirim runs a tennis foundation in the country. In December 2018, he was in Nigeria to organise a tennis clinic for both junior and senior players. The coach also gave out tennis equipment, including balls, rackets, tennis shoes and bags to the players and pledged to do more in future.
The clinic took place at the Enugu Tennis Club, where Ehirim grew up to national prominence. Christian Paul and Ikechukwu Iloputa also attended the clinic. The coach used the opportunity to prepare the duo for the fast approaching ITF Features tournament in Nigeria holding in the first week of April.
“After my active playing days, it has been my dream to bring up the younger ones, encourage them and prepare them for future challenges,” Ehirim said in a chat with The Guardian.
Before moving to the U.S., Ehirim had a successful sojourn in Europe, where he achieved almost everything on offer in Irish tennis. He attained among other tennis coaching certificates, the Ireland Tennis Level 1 Certificate, PTR Certificate and was also a member of the Professional Tennis Coaches of Nigeria.
As a coach, Ehirim made huge impact in Ireland, as he helped top Irish female tennis players like Sophia Derivan, who plays the Federation Cup with the Irish Women’s team and competes in the ITF/WTA tournaments as well. Ophia was ranked as high as 354 in ITF ranking.
“I also used to be hitting partner of Jennifer Timotin at Castleknock Tennis Club,” Ehirim said. Jennifer also plays for the Irish Women’s national team and was ranked 1121 in WTA Women’s ranking.
Since arriving in the US, Ehirim has been plying his coaching skills at the Centre Court and Sports Club in New Jersey. He has successfully worked with budding players and helped them achieve their dreams of gaining scholarship to institutions of higher learning through tennis.
He coached players like Brianna Gibbs, who is in Georgetown University and plays with the school’s women team. Others include Collete Gilbert, who also plays in the school’s women team, Sam Vagner and Jack Kosiowrosk, the News Tribune Player of the Year all passed through the tutelage of Nnamdi Ehirim.
The Nigerian is currently saddled with the responsibility of bringing up other young and promising American prospects, among them Ronit Khromchenko, who is ranked 35 in the Eastern Conference. She is also ranked nationally in girls U-12.
“I am happy doing what I am doing and my greatest joy is to see Nigeria improve on her Davis Cup standing and ensure Nigerian players do well in international tennis tournaments,” Ehirim stated.
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