A fresh generation of players are breaking into the tennis court in Nigeria. PUNCH Sports Extra’s JOHNNY EDWARD writes about the top 10 emerging tennis players to look out for
- Chukwudubem Amasiani
Born on June 24, 2011, Chukwudubem Amasiani took an interest in tennis at age five when his family went on a tour of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.
His meteoric rise of seven years in tennis has seen him win several titles in the U-12s and U-14s categories.
In August, Amasiani gave tennis enthusiasts something to cheer on as he led team Nigeria comprising of Seyi Ogunsakin and Lorelay Holzendorff to a first-place finish at the ITF/CAT West & Central African Junior Championship in Ghana.
On his return to Nigeria, he featured in the junior event of the annual Sapetro Futures Tennis Championship in Lagos and with the same winning mentality he won two titles in the boys U-12s and U-14s categories.
Amasiani also won two titles at the NNPC/SNEPCo Invitational Tennis Masters in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State in September.
The gifted tennis talent brushed aside his younger brother Ikem 9-1 in the Boys 12s and then out-rallied a former 14 and under champion, Onyekachi Ogumjiofor from Oyo State 9-3.
It is only a matter of time before this youngster becomes the most prominent name on the lips of Nigerian tennis fans as he consistently delivers when he features in any competition.
- David Ekpeyoung
Ekpeyoung only turned professional in 2018 and has swiftly risen through the rankings to the lofty position he finds himself today.
The reigning Nigeria’s number one player and champion of the J100 tourney in Accra, Ghana compares well against tennis greats like Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer when it comes to winning championships and progressing at major tournaments.
His speed on the court is a major plus and the power of his forehand shots gives him a distinct advantage. There is no reason why he shouldn’t remain at the top of the game for time to come.
Currently placed 217th in the ITF ranking, Ekpeyoung has won four titles this year suffering six defeats in 37 matches winning 31.
- Oluwaseun Ogunsakin
The reigning African U-14 champion remains a class act of his own among his peers.
Ogunsakin became Nigeria’s first teenage recipient of a wild card in over a decade to feature at the Junior Grand Slam in Wimbledon in July.
Despite that, the youngster agonizingly missed out on a chance to take part in the world’s most prestigious tennis event.
Fondly called ‘Young Nadal’ of Nigeria, Ogunsakin is currently placed 1206th in the ITF junior ranking and it is believed that he is on his way to mingling with the best talents in world junior tennis having recorded 14 wins and six losses in the 20 games player in 2023.
- Daniel Adeleye
Adeleye was unfortunate to have lost to Nikola Jovic from Serbia in the semi-final of the J60 tennis event in Accra, Ghana last October.
But this Nigerian sensation seems set on a similar path to greatness with the way he has being playing this year. He also made it to the semi-final of the J1000 tennis event in Accra, where he lost in two straight sets to David Ekpeyoung.
This came after he had won back-to-back J30 Boys titles in the summer. In the nine tournaments he has taken part, Adeleye has recorded 29 wins and six losses in 35 matches. The recently released Junior ITF rankings saw him drop two spots to 477 in the world, but Adeleye is fast becoming a player that opponents shy away from and he looks set to test Ekpeyoung for a while yet.
- Abubakar Yusuf
Abubakar may not have won any Junior ITF event ever, but the frequency of his participation means that he picked up valuable points at tournaments he featured in.
The 17-year-old has played in two finals against two top two players (Adeleye and Ekpeyoung) on PUNCH Sports Extra’s list – a testament to the fact that he is not a pushover in junior tennis ratings.
A youth champion at the 2023 Lagos UTR Tennis Championship, Yusuf is another product of Nigeria’s Junior ITF tournaments, where he has performed well his recent trip to Ghana also added to his exposure which he needs more if he must break into the top 500 in the world of junior tennis rankings.
If he continues at this rate (with 12 wins and six defeats in 18 games so far this year), Yusuf is likely to come up clutch in the coming years before he finally leaves the junior cadre of tennis for the upcoming players.
- Peter John
Very few Nigerian tennis followers will not be conversant with this 17-year-old Benue indigene’s exploits as he has featured prominently at the Junior ITF events in Abuja since 2019 with his best outing being in 2022, where he lost to current African U-14 number one player – Seun Ogunsakin.
The right-handed player may have started his foray into the world of tennis at the advanced age of 12, but he has done enough to be among the top 10 best juniors from Nigeria on the world rankings in just five years. With proper guidance and resources being provided, Oche is one player who still has a chance of excelling.
- David Edwards
For those who are familiar with Marylove Edwards, they will surely be wary of David who incidentally, is her younger brother.
While his potential has not matured fully, he has shown glimpses of excellence in the tournaments he participated in and has also proven that with consistency and the right learning conditions, he can take on any player on his day.
In January, Edwards stunned Seyi Ogunsakin 9-3 in the final of the Boys 14 final to round up the 18th Central Bank of Nigeria Junior Tennis Championship which took place at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club.
Having already represented Nigeria outside the shores of the country, it is clear what potential this one-handed backhand player possesses.
He plays with so much confidence and does not break when things are not going his way, including after losing a competitive match.
If David continues playing the way he does and gets to face tougher opponents, it will not be long before Nigerians start singing his praises like his elder sister who rose to become the Nigerian number one female tennis player.
8 Nene Yakubu
Teenage tennis sensation, Nene Yakubu, has already made a name in Nigeria and Africa’s cadet tennis championships.
Nene who hails from a tennis family is following in the brilliant footsteps of her elder sister Ozia who dominated the Nigerian scene before she moved overseas to further her tennis development.
In March 2020, she captained team Nigeria to the African Junior Tennis Championships U-12 team event for West and Central Africa in Cotonou, Benin Republic where she won a gold medal without dropping a set throughout the whole tournament.
She also won the 2020 CBN National Junior Tennis Tournament U-14 in Lagos for the fourth time after earlier winning the tournament — the U-10 twice and the U-12 in the previous year.
Currently ranked 870 in the ITF juniors rankings for girls, Nene lost in the final of the J30 Accra Tennis Foundation in Ghana to Tomegah, Sisu-Makena 6-2 6-2 7-6 in September.
The defeat was her 10th in 27 games in 2023 having amassed 17 wins from the tournaments she has featured in.
- Lorelay Holzendorff
Holzendorff played her way into this list as she has remained the toast of tennis followers in recent months.
The 12-year-old star was one of the outstanding players at the last National Youth Games in Asaba, Delta State where she won gold medal representing Team Edo.
Holzendorff who has been dominating the female juniors in her category defeated Bright Emmanuela in three straight sets to make history in her debut appearance at the games.
The youngster recently led team Nigeria to a top finish at the ITF/CAT U-12 West and Central African competition in Ghana and she is expected to replicate her form at the Dala Hard Court which will serve off this weekend in Kano.
- Osayimwen Osaherun
Since her debut at the ITF junior events in Abuja, in June, Osaherun has fallen in love with the circuit and has not looked back ever since.
Despite reaching the quarter-finals at the Abuja event, the 15-year-old also didn’t disappoint on her debut at the Accra Tennis Foundation in Ghana where she reached the last 16.
Ranked 2633 in the current ITF juniors rankings for girls, Osaherun has gained more exposure in the coming years that will surely help her further in her tennis development.