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Editorials, Sports

Inside the Ultra-Competitive and Social World of Nigeria’s Tennis Clubs

In the 1970s, the Nigerian Tennis community saw the rise of several talented players, including Top 100 ranked Nduka Odizor.

  • Oluwatomiwa Ogunniyi
  • 14th June 2024
Tennis Clubs in Nigeria

A game of Tennis isn’t just about exercise, it’s also a mood booster. Whether you play recreationally or competitively, the sport offers a full-body workout that gets your brain fired up. And to face it, there is a certain allure to the sport, as brilliantly captured in the director Luca Guardagnino’s latest film, Challengers. With its seductive portrayal of human desire and codependency, the movie features a stunning cast (Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor) and might just be the most accurate depiction of tennis life ever seen on screen.



Challengers had me captivated by the world of tennis as it presented  the sport as thrilling.  It also got me wondering — does Nigeria have anything similar? Absolutely. Nigeria boasts a thriving tennis community, complete with federations and clubs that cultivate an active atmosphere. The clubs cater to all levels of the society, making tennis accessible and enjoyable whether you’re a competitive player or a social butterfly seeking a fun way to stay active. 


First played in the 19th century, it is an Olympic sport that is played at all levels of society and at all ages, either individually against a single opponent (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles). It is  played worldwide by anyone who can hold a racket, including wheelchair users. There are four Grand Slam tournaments that are especially popular: the Australian Open, played on hardcourts; the French Open, played on red clay courts; Wimbledon, played on grass courts; and the US Open (which was highly referred to in the movie Challengers), also played on hardcourts.  


The sport was first introduced to Nigeria in the early 20th century by the British, who were responsible for introducing many sports like football, boxing, and athletics (track and field) to the country. The first tennis club established in the country is The Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, built in 1895, which was instrumental in the development of the sport. During the pre-independence era, tennis wasn’t accessible to Nigerians. However, this began to change in the 1950s as more Nigerians started to participate in the sport.


One of the driving forces behind this was the formation of the Nigeria Tennis Association in 1954, created to promote the sport and organize tournaments. Also, the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club hosted several major tournaments, including the Lagos International Championships, which attracted top players from around the world like Adebayo Adetunji who was one of the most significant players during the pre-independence era. Adetunji, born in 1921, was the first Nigerian player to win a major championship. He won the men’s singles title at the West African Championships in 1947 and went on to win the same title three more times in 1948, 1949, and 1950.

Another remarkable player during this period was Modupe Oshikoya. Oshikoya was born in Lagos in 1923 and she won the women’s singles title at the West African Championships in 1951. In addition to Adetunji and Oshikoya, other Nigerian players who made their mark playing the game during the pre-independence era include: Segun Akinloye and Nduka Odizor, who were top players in the country. 

Despite the limited access to the sport during the pre-independence era, tennis was already starting to gain popularity in Nigeria, setting the stage for the growth of the sport in the years to come. The Nigeria Tennis Association, alongside the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club and other tennis organizations and individuals, continued to promote the sport. After Nigeria gained independence in 1960, the tennis scene began to grow and develop rapidly as tennis players began to compete on the international stage, with some achieving significant success.

In the 1970s, the Nigerian community saw the rise of several talented players, including Nduka Odizor, who became the country’s first tennis player to be ranked in the top 100 in the world according to the Nigerian Tennis Federation and Christian Onyejekwe, who represented Nigeria in the Davis Cup and became the country’s number one player. During this time, tennis also gained popularity as a sport for young people as schools began tennis lessons and tennis courts were built in the country. 


Moreover, the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF) was established to oversee the development of the sport and organise tournaments and events as Nigerian players continued to make their mark on the international stage, with players like Nduka Odizor, Sadiq Abdullahi and Tony Mmoh achieving success in both singles and doubles competitions.


In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in tennis in Nigeria, with the NTF actively working to promote and develop the sport across the country. Nigeria has hosted several local and international tournaments, including the CBN Open, Dalia Hard Court, Vemp Open, ITF Futures tournament, the Davis Cup and The Grand Slam. The country has also produced a new generation of talented players, including Sylvester Emmanuel, Blessing Samuel, David Ekpenyong, who have found success on the international stage.


This excitement translates to the vibrant social scene within Nigeria’s tennis clubs. Take the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, established in 1895. Being the oldest one in Nigeria, it has been in existence since 1895, providing a welcoming environment for tennis enthusiasts of all ages and skills. It serves as a social and sports club that oversees and organises several tennis tournaments and has also gained a big boost at the Governor’s Cup Lagos Championships (GCLT) which is an annual ITF Pro circuit competition with a huge amount of prize money. The Lawn Tennis Club is governed by the Nigeria Tennis Federation. It organises various events throughout the year including tournaments, social gatherings and charity initiatives which serve as opportunities for members to engage with individuals who share the love for the sport, demonstrate  their skills, and contribute to the development of the community. 


Aurum Tennis Academy is another club that exemplifies this philosophy. Founded by a passionate family, Aurum not only sponsors players internationally but also cultivates homegrown talent.  The academy, located in Lagos, offers a variety of programs, ranging from beginner lessons to advanced training, with both group and individual classes, as it admits students from all over the world ranging in age from 4 to adult.



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Its holistic approach goes beyond physical training, developing mental, social, and ethical character in their students. If you take an interest in tennis, the academy will be the best place to start your journey.


Some of the visionary athletes you will train with include: David Peter Ekpenyong, a standout player who was initially ranked number thirty-two in the country by the Nigerian Tennis Federation and Ogunsakin Oluwaseun who has earlier been ranked number seven in Africa by the Confederation of African Tennis, according to the academy. In 2023, after winning two international tournaments held in Togo, he became Africa’s highest ranked tennis player in the categories he won making it the first time a Nigerian junior player will qualify for the main event of a junior grand slam. He achieved all these at the age of fourteen. 


Moreover, Lagos Country Club has over the years grown to be regarded as one of the top social, recreational and sporting clubs in the county. Founded in 1949, Lagos Country Club is the premier Family Club in Nigeria, and it is headed by Seyi Adewunmi. The club offers activities like swimming, badminton, snooker/billiard, scrabble, taekwondo but the tennis section is the largest and most developed with standard equipment of the club, accepting membership yearly. The tennis section is considered the heartbeat of the club by many of the distinguished members.


The highlight of this particular section is the clay court, that is the only one in the whole of Lagos. The court has hosted some of the most celebrated national and Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) international clay court tournaments played in Nigeria like John Player Classics, Nigerian Open, the Rainoil National Open, and Quadrangular games. Other tournaments that the club holds regularly include: Prince Joseph Adewunmi Ademuluyi Annual Tennis Tournament (for children), the Annual Ladder Challenge, Mentor American Tournament, and the Ball Boys American Tournament. 


Apart from these clubs, there are also tennis courts in various states where you can practise and challenge yourself. Tennis is more than a sport; it is also a catalyst for creating vast opportunities and empowering players both academically and socially. It might just be your cup of tea. 

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