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Serena Williams to host 2024 ESPYs in July

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Serena Williams poses at the Met Gala, an annual fundraising gala held for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute with this year's theme 'Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion' in New York City, New York, U.S., May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

Tennis great Serena Williams will host the 2024 ESPYs in July, ESPN announced on Tuesday.

The 23-times Grand Slam champion, who retired after the 2022 U.S. Open and is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, will take the stage July 11 at The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

“This is a dream come true for me, and something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember,” Williams, 42, said in an ESPN news release.

“It has been a sensational year for sports and an unprecedented one for female athletes. I can’t wait to celebrate everyone on-stage in July.”

The ESPYs, which are co-produced by ESPN and Full Day Productions, commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major athletic achievements, reliving unforgettable moments, and saluting the leading performers and performances.

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-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Tennis

Rafael Nadal wins at Barcelona Open on injury return

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Rafael Nadal enjoyed a winning start at the Barcelona Open as he returned from another long-term injury in what could be his final year before retirement.

The Spanish 22-time major champion, who turns 38 in June, won 6-2 6-3 against inexperienced Italian Flavio Cobolli in their first-round match on Tuesday.

Now ranked 644th, Nadal was playing for the first time since January because of a hip injury and abdominal issues.

Nadal has indicated that 2024 is likely to be his last as a professional player.

After pulling out of last year’s French Open with a hip problem, the former world number one said he planned to retire at the end of this season.

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Nadal, who is considered as one of the best players in history and greatest clay-courter of all time, has only played one event since.

But, before making his latest comeback in Barcelona, Nadal said he was not “putting a deadline” on his retirement and would only keep playing as long as he felt it was “worth it”.

This win was a positive step, if a somewhat straightforward assignment, as the record 14-time champion aims to return to Roland Garros next month.

“I’m just having fun and happy to start with a victory,” said Nadal, who faces a tougher opponent next in Australian world number 10 Alex de Minaur.

“I’m going through some tough moments but at the same time when I’m able to be on tour and compete a little bit it means a lot.”

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What shape was Nadal in?

It was intriguing to see what shape Nadal would be in against 62nd-ranked Cobolli, who has only played in the main draw of a Grand Slam twice.

A record 12-time champion in Barcelona, Nadal was playing his first clay-court match in 681 days – when he won the 2022 French Open final.

There was an air of anticipation as a packed crowd awaited Nadal’s arrival on the court which is named in his honour, external with the gangways on his walk out full of ball kids and tournament staff.

A near-standing ovation and huge roar greeted Nadal, while the familiar pre-match foibles – aligning his water bottles, box jumps at the net and zigzagged sprint to the baseline – were also lapped up.

It was less certain whether the shot-making and athleticism which they have also become accustomed to seeing from Nadal would return as well.

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Doubts had been raised about the impact of the abdominal injury on his serve and, although it appeared he wasn’t serving at full tilt, he showed few issues.

There was, understandably, some early rust in his groundstrokes before Nadal quickly found fluency from both forehand and backhand wings.

With Cobolli looking slightly overawed and showing uncertainty in his shots, Nadal cemented an early break for a 4-1 lead and wrapped up the opening set in 43 minutes.

Whipping a trademark forehand winner down the line in the second game of the second set illustrated his growing confidence.

Nadal edged a run of three straight breaks and saw out victory by taking his second match point, showing his delight with trademark underarm fist pump.

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African Games

Nigeria’s last African Games medal to come from tennis

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Nigeria’s last African Games medal to come from tennis

Nigeria’s second position at the African Games is already sealed as the curtain falls on the delayed Accra 2023 tonight. As usual, Egypt are the runner-away leaders with an amazing 52 gold medals more than that of second-placed Nigeria.

Overall, Egypt have 187 medals as against Nigeria’s 121 as at close of competition on Friday night.

This Saturday, there are contests in just three disciplines – Cricket, Tennis and Volley ball. Nigeria will be involved in only women’s final, playing against Egypt.

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Former Nigerian Ace, Odizor Cries For Tennis Revival –

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Former Nigerian Ace, Odizor Cries For Tennis Revival -

Former tennis player, Nduka Odizor is saddened by the state of the sport in Nigeria and wants those saddled with the responsibility of administering the sport to wake up to their primary duties of developing the game.

Nduka “The Duke” Odizor as he was fondly called during his playing days blames the retrogression of tennis in the country on a lack of continuity and consistency on the part of the Nigeria Tennis Federation.

Odizor started playing tennis as a school boy in Benin city, Edo State and went on to feature in the national sports festival and the national tennis team as a teenager.

He was part of Nigeria’s Davis Cup team and represented Nigeria at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

He won several singles and doubles titles in Lagos and at the popular Ogbe Hard Court in Benin City.

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He went on to win international tournaments in Taiwan, Mexico, Dallas, New York, Tokyo, Sydney and other cities.

At the peak of his tennis career, Odizor reached the fourth round of the Wimbledon Open in 1983 and was the only Nigerian to play on centre court at the All England club.

He featured in the U.S Open, the French Open and Australian open and was rated number 52 in the ATP world ranking in 1984.

Despite his vast experience, expertise, exposure and knowledge of the sport as a former player and member of important global tennis organisations, Odizor is yet to impact the administration of tennis in Nigeria.

He said he made several efforts with the intentions to administer Nigerian tennis but was never welcomed.

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“I made moves and I tried to help, but the bad system in Nigeria would not welcome people like me who know and understand the game but not ready to play dirty politics.

“It’s been difficult to get into the tennis federation because those of us who are based overseas have been shut out. You wouldn’t believe that several years after being voted into office, nobody in the Nigeria tennis federation has reached out to me to seek my contribution. it’s a shame.”

Odizor who had a part of his secondary school education at the famous New Era secondary school in Benin City, featured and won titles at the Ogbe Hard Court tournament in Benin.

The once popular and glamorous tennis championship has been extinct for many years, but Odizor is keen on collaborating with the Edo State Government to resuscitate the event.

“It will be quite busy for me this year, because I had a meeting with Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki and we are making plans to restart the Ogbe Hard Court Tennis Championship in Benin.

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“Besides that, I will be running and funding at least six different tournaments in all the geo-political zones of Nigeria and that will be my little way of helping Nigerian tennis”

 

 

Duke Odizor established a tennis foundation in 2004 which he runs from his base in Houston, the United states and his office in Abuja and Asaba in Nigeria. Through the foundation, Odizor returns to Nigeria often to hold tennis clinics and teach Nigerian children how to play the game.

 

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