Nigerian teen sensation, Angel Macleod has expressed her desire to put Nigerian tennis on the global map, following her admission into the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida.
The IMG Academy, which combines sports with academics, has nurtured global superstars like Venus and Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Kei Nishikori, and Macleod is delighted to have a chance to follow the footsteps of these great players.
“It’s an honour and privilege being in the world’s biggest academy. I am thankful for this opportunity to excel in both education and sports”, said Macleod, who left Nigeria for Florida at the start of February.
Prior to her departure from the country, Macleod attended Chalcedony School in Lekki, but mixing education with a professional tennis career was tough for the teenager- that will no longer be the case, as IMG provides the perfect platform to combine both worlds.
IMG Ambassador to Nigeria, Victor Olagbaiye, shed more light on the goals of the academy, explaining that proper education forms a significant part of the organization’s work.
“Our goal is the combination of education and sports at the highest level. Highschool diploma in conjunction with securing post-secondary athletic scholarships for Angel is our primary goal. Other objectives include helping our students get university degrees and professional careers”, Olagbaiye said.
“Nigerians are brilliant and naturally talented, they simply need to be in a structured, nurturing environment that combines quality training with exposure”, he added.
Olagbaiye also confirmed that there are plans in the pipeline to take “two or three” more Nigerian players to IMG in the near future.
President of the Nigerian Tennis Federation, Engineer Dayo Akindoju welcomed the trend of Nigerian youngsters going to develop themselves outside the country, while also expressing his wish that Nigeria can one day have a world class tennis academy of her own.
“It’s a great one… We don’t have what it takes to train people properly at that age in Nigeria today. The discipline, the schooling, the facilities- we don’t have the world class platform to do that”, Akindoju said. It is something we encourage a lot for now until we are able to build our own academy, with academics included”.
“We encourage a lot of talented and potential players to do that”.
The 17-year-old Macleod is one of the most talented youngsters in the country, peaking at a career-high ranking of 661 in the world junior rankings at the start of 2017. However, her development was hampered by injuries, which have dragged the teenager outside the world’s top 1000.
The ambitious Macleod has set her sights on not only regaining her previous level, but also going on to achieve greater things for the country in the sport.
“I hope to break records, while doing a lot of great stuffs”.
“I’m keen to put Nigeria on the map in regards to tennis. I’m extremely excited about this new chapter in my life, while embracing the challenges ahead”.
Macleod describes her forehand as her favourite shot, while she admires Swiss great, Roger Federer for his calmness. Unsurprisingly, the Nigerian also draws inspiration from Serena Williams!
“I admire her for her power and athleticism on court. She is a testament that regardless of how difficult things appear, we can overcome them with faith and hard work”, Macleod said of Serena.
The youngster has set herself a three-year target to make a telling impact in the sport- perhaps she could rise quickly enough to earn a berth at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo?
“Representing Nigeria at the Olympics would be an honour and a dream come through!”, she says.