Saturday, 26 August 2017

WEEKEND SPECIAL: 'You Cannot Win A Grand Slam By Playing In Nigeria'

Tennis is not a sport with so much popularity and publicity in Nigeria, especially with the challenges surrounding sponsorship of tournaments and players.

Over the years, the Nigerian players who are believed to be among the best on the continent and in the world, have since waned in quality and popularity, majorly because they find it difficult to compete appropriately.

In the light of this, Naija Tennis Special's WEEKEND SPECIAL this week focuses on one young talent who is hoping to hoist Nigeria's flag high in the coming months, his name; Christopher Bulus.

He bared his mind to our correspondent on how he almost gave up on tennis, what he thinks Nigeria is still lacking in the sport and ultimately, whether he thinks a player can win a grand slam by playing in the country.

Excerpts:

Which players did you watch that inspired you to start playing tennis?

Locally I watched Umoru (Balamin) play at first, he was so good in the juniors, before I saw Tomas Berdych on television. And that inspired me to work even harder.
Bulus holding one of the trophies he won during one of the tournaments he participated in.
Since you started, how has it been? 

It has been really tough because I have met a lot of good players in the course of my short career so far. It took me years to catch up with their level (since I started playing at 10) thanks to the Chevron clinic where I learnt a lot from different coaches.

How many tournaments have you won, locally and internationally?

Locally, I have won a lot of tournaments (maybe 15), majorly on the ITA Circuit. I  made my ITF debut in 2016 so I have not won any ITF tour but played in the finals of my recent tournament in Abidjan.

The ITA circuit was where I made my first final appearance and it has been so encouraging since then. I have been working had to achieve my goals thanks to ACES TENNIS and other support I get from kind and generous members in the club, especially Mr. Shina Atilola.

What's your ambition in life?
Right now college tennis is the best decision that I have taken. I wanted to become a pro player right from when I started because watching them play on the television is like watching myself play there one day

Bulus being encouraged by his colleagues and coach, Abel Ubiebi, during one of the tournaments he participated in.
Before tennis, did you have any ambition?

My dream was to become a banker.

But have you shed that dream already?

Not really.

So you're still pursuing it alongside tennis?

Playing tennis in Nigeria is not encouraging but after college tennis if there is any sign of improvement from me, I would continue with tennis but if no, I will go on with my banking career

Which Nigerian player inspires you now? And why?

Sylvester Emmanuel because he is working extremely hard on and off the court to achieve his goals.

Have you ever thought of quitting tennis?

Yes, because it was so difficult to cope with school and tennis. My siblings wanted me to stop because I was always leaving the club late. Then I was in SS1.

But I didn't stop because I was lucky to have won the all secondary schools tournament at the Yoruba tennis club in Lagos.

How much support have you gotten from your parents so far?

My parents were invited to watch the competition I won and since then I was allowed to continue playing. I got so much support especially from my mum.
Bulus competing in an ITF tournament in 2016.

What motivates you to keep playing tennis?

Hmmm... I always keep this adage in mind "many are called but few are chosen". I wanted to work hard and be chosen that's why I never stopped tennis at all.

When do you think you can win your first grand slam title?

Hmmm... for me I can't say, probably only after my college.

And do you think a Nigerian player can do that while playing in Nigeria?

There are fast rising tennis players in Nigeria who can win a slam but not while they are in Nigeria. Even if the present federation executives start working now, it will take years to restore what has been lost.