Marylove Edward and Matthew Abamu secured wins in their opening matches to give Nigeria a bright start at the 2017 ITF/CAT African Junior championship which served off Monday in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Third-seeded Edward, who is the only female of the five-man team, defeated Hoziane Kitambala of Kenya 6-4, 6-0 in the girls’ 14 and under to enhance her chances of progressing to the knockout stage while Abamu triumphed over Forkane Lebdi of Algeria 6-3, 7-5 to also take a step at securing passage from the preliminary stage.
“I’m very happy, I played so well. I know there are tougher games ahead but its good I won my first game,” said the 11-year-old who was beaten in her debut match at the AJC last year in Pretoria.
Edward will face unseeded Niangadou Coumba of Burkina Faso on Tuesday while Abamu keeps a date with Taona Mhwandagara of Zimbabwe.
However, it was not all rosy for Nigeria as Michael Osewa fell 6-0, 6-2 to third-seed, Soufiane El Mesbahi of Morocco.
Osewa, the 12th seed, is the most experienced of the Nigerian players losing in the final last year to Damien Laporte of the Seychelles in the boys’ 14 and under. However, making his debut in the 16 and under category, he was puzzled all through the match by the firepower of the North African who sealed a comfortable win in about 50 minutes. Osewa will play Kenya’s Keean Shah on Tuesday.
“The Moroccan boy was very good. He has been playing in the category for almost two years and his class was high for Osewa to contain. We are looking forward to his next match on Tuesday and hopefully, he will get back to winning; remember it was the same experience for him last year where he lost his first match but made it to the final,” Nigeria’s coach, Mohammed Ubale said.
Michael Ayoola and David Dawariye are the two other Nigerians in the tournament featuring over 120 players, about 30 countries and they will begin their preliminary matches on a tough note against top seed, Youcef Rihane of Algeria and Mehdi Benchekroun of Morocco on Tuesday.