A princely N23 million would be up for grab in this year’s NCC Tennis League, a statement by the International Tennis Academy (ITA), the organising partners for the League has said. The NCC Tennis League is the first of its kind in Africa.

The league which teed off in July has already witnessed explosive games, upsets and jaw-dropping come-backs.

One of the special guests that have graced the play-offs was the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, who did not hide his excitement at the quality of tennis on display. He lauded the NCC for the initiative which he said is in tandem with the resolve of the Federal Government to develop all areas of sports to engage talented Nigerians as well as build a national brand.

Speaking shortly before the kick-off of the first match of the 2017 NCC Tennis League in Abuja, Udoma noted that the present administration was creating an enabling environment to stimulate the private sector so that they could generate resources to support the sports sector. The minister called for more sponsorship from multinational companies in the country in order to take the league to greater heights.

He said: “Sports is very important for our youths and the national brand and we intend to develop all areas of the sector. We would like Nigerians to participate in the US Open, the French Open and if possible win one of the Grand Slams. It will be very exciting for Nigeria.”

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, in his address, said the tennis league being sponsored by the Commission has made huge impact on the nation’s tennis circuit, adding that it has provided opportunity to engage the youths in a fruitful enterprise.

He noted that the tournament has generated a lot of excitement across the country, adding that the players have taken the competition very seriously and are training hard to improve their skills in order to attract more income to support their aspirations to rise to international standard.

For some of the players, it has been another opportunity to re-launch their careers in a very competitive manner. Onyeka Mbanu, the first junior player to reach the semifinals of the CBN Senior Championship five years ago, said in Ibadan that he plans to use the NCC Tennis League to revive his career.

Mbanu, who along with Christian Paul, Moses Michael, Samuel Omoile and Sylvester Emmanuel, among others, used the platform of the ITA Junior circuit to launch their careers, at a time drooped the racket for music and entertainment. But he’s back now, courtesy of the NCC Tennis League.

“I know what my potential is,” Mbanu said with some regret. “But with this opportunity to practice and compete regularly, I am sure I can get my game back and challenge for titles”, he said.

From Ilorin to Jos, Lagos to Ibadan, the various centres have already witnessed great tennis from a battery of Nigerian youths with a sprinkling of experienced players all gunning for the bigger glory in the finals.