MCleod: Hardwork, Government Support Will Change Nigeria’s Tennis
Just a little above 12 years, MCleod has become one of the shining lights of the fading sport, which in the past gave Nigerians so much to look up to during major international championships.
Nigeria is currently so low in international tennis ranking that most of the present generation of sports followers find it difficult to believe that this is a country that once produced such stars as the great Nduka Odizor, David Imonitie and Tony Mmoh, among others.
For many years, Nigerian officials have been mouthing their determination to resuscitate the sport, which at one time put the country at par and even above the best tennis playing nations of Africa. But rather than produce another player to equal or surpass Nduka Odizor’s much-talked about Wimbledon feat, the country has been relegated to the back waters of the Davis Cup, the annual tennis version of football’s Nations Cup.
But there is a bright light in the horizon. According to experts’ projections, the Chevron Tennis programme has thrown many promising youngsters that in the nearest future Nigeria would return to the summit of the game in Africa.
It may be some time in coming, but the experts believe that in MCleod and such other youngsters as Oyin Quadre, Mathew Abamu, among others under Chris Enahoro’s tutelage at the Chevron Tennis Programme, the country will surely reclaim its position in the comity of great tennis nations.
MCleod, who lives with her parents in Dubai, demonstrated on the closing day of the Chevron Summer Clinic at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan, why so many pundits think she belongs to the emerging class of teenagers built for the renaissance of Nigerian tennis. She took every opposition on her way to the cleaners.
However, even at such a young age, she acknowledges that becoming a world beater will need more than the support she is currently getting from the Chevron programme.
“Government has a big role to play in our development. They must provide the facilities and the right environment for sponsors to support us as well as build the facilities that we will use to train.
“Chevron is doing so much to rebuild Nigerian tennis, but they cannot do it alone. Other big companies should contribute to the growth by sponsoring competitions across the country. And like Chevron, they should invest in the youth by supporting us to attend competitions outside Nigeria. That way, we will get the same kind of experience our colleagues from the developed world take for granted,” she said.
MCleod, who reveals that her quest for the top takes her to many junior events across the world, adds that the Chevron programme has opened a career path for many youngsters, some of who would have been roaming the streets during the long vacation.
She says: “The Chevron clinic has been very exciting and interesting. I have learnt a lot here and I love it because it gives kids the opportunity to show their talents, which is very good for our development.
“I usually come home if I am not busy in Dubai to attend competitions every year. But there is something unique about the Chevron programme.
“In other competitions that I attend, they usually accommodate us, which Chevron does. But Chevron goes further to provide gift bags, clothes and tennis equipment. Besides, Chevron gives players opportunities to grow.”
MCleod, who believes she has the ingredients to become a top tennis star in the future, wants to model her career after Russia’s Maria Sharapova, who she says is her role model.
“I think I have a lot in common with Maria Sharapova. I like her aggressive game and hope to be like her. I hope that I will be the first Nigerian to become a world superstar through tennis,” she enthuses.
Aside the support she gets from her parents and Chevron, MCleod says the president of the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan, has also keyed in to her dream of becoming an international star.
She adds that her rivalry with Oyin Quadre has also helped in shaping her development as a player.
MCleod says, “I do not fear anybody and I also know that nobody is unbeatable. But my biggest opposition is Oyin Quadri. It is not that I am scared of her but she is a good player, who I have only lost to once.”