NTF, NCC plan grand slam sponsorship for league champions
Winners of the annual Nigeria Communications Commission’s (NCC) Tennis League will soon get the opportunity to participate in the major grand slams, the organisers of the competition have promised.
The maiden edition of the NCC Tennis League ended on Saturday at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan, with Team Tombim beating Team Civil Defence to get the N5 million star prize money.
Team Civil Defence got the runner-up prize of N3 million, while the third placed Team Kalotari of Port Harcourt won N2 million, with Team Ogun from Abeokuta getting the N1 million meant for the fourth place.
The tennis league, which started in April with eight teams that played in two round robin groups in eight different cities, offered a total prize money of N11 million. But at the grand finale attended by eminent dignitaries, including the first vice president of Nigeria, Sir Alex Ekwueme and Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, the organisers announced plans to expand the scope of the competition to attract more clubs, as well as work with the ATP to get Nigerians into the international circuit.
Speaking on the success of the first edition, NCC Director, Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, said “we instituted the league to get our players ready for international competitions and also to raise the bar in terms of quality of tennis we have in our local circuit. We know that once you don’t play regularly, you will become rusty and therefore cannot play against the best in the world.
“We are already in touch with the federation to look at ways we can raise the level of participation and also in collaboration with the ATP see how we can make it a point earning competition.”
Ojobo said the NCC’s ultimate aim is to build a strong tennis culture in Nigeria such that “we can raise the Nadals, Djokovics, Serenas, Hingis and the Federers of Nigeria, and the only way we can do it is by providing a platform where these players can hone their skills.”
Also speaking on the plans to launch Nigerian players into the international circuit, Nigeria Tennis Federation President (NTF), Sani Ndanusa, said the federation would soon convene a meeting of all the stakeholders to map out plans that will aid in actualizing the dream.
Ndanusa said: “It is deliberate that the NCC League final is holding a day before the Lagos Governor’s Cup begins. We just finished with the Dala Hard Court with the same players, so they will be in top form going into the Governor’s Cup.”
He added: “The first year of the NCC League is the test period and the NCC has promised to increase the prize money and also help us to launch the players into the grand slam.
“We want the winners to be given the opportunity to go on an European tour. That is, instead of giving them the prize money directly, we will map out their route to Italy, Germany, Sweden, England and Spain, among others, to participate in the European tour.
“We have also agreed that we will increase the number of participating clubs, and all the stakeholders have agreed to come together to give it a national outlook.”
He added that the NCC, NTF, club coaches, referees and the International Tennis Academy (ITA) will soon meet to harmonise subsequent editions, adding that clubs aspiring to join the league must meet a set standard.
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