Nigerian tennis pro is guiding the sport’s next generation
2016-12-15 13:41:10 -
By Chinedu Onyejelem

Being a professional tennis coach and active player is a challenging career, and very few people have dared to dream that far. But for one immigrant, it’s a way of life.

Nnamdi Ehirim, a top-300 ranked senior men’s player in the world, proved this by winning the men’s Dublin Premier League in November. The previous month, he helped the Castleknock class 2 men’s team win a prestigious over-35’s Irish event, defeating a top Portmatnock club.

The former Nigerian number one tells Metro Éireann he also won the International Tennis Federation (ITF) senior event in Birmingham, UK last January, as well as an ITF senior event in Frankfurt Germany in December 2015. 

For Ehirim, a qualified Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) and Tennis Ireland level one coach, winning is not restricted to his playing career. After moving to Ireland in early 2000, the former Davis Cup player volunteered to coach with the Kitkat Tennis programme between 2003 and 2004 where he trained kids in the Blanchardstown area.

Following that, he secured his first coaching job at Charleville Tennis Club, where he was also a winning member of the class 2 Summer League champion team. Ehirim says coaching at this club helped in opening doors for him in the tennis scene in Ireland and beyond.

Between 2007 and 2013, Ehirim joined David Lloyd to coach promising youngster – most notably Sophia Derivan, who is now a top Irish under-18 player.
Today, Ehirim is becoming a household name in professional tennis coaching, not only in the US where he is based now, but especially in Ireland and Nigeria where he continues to support several young tennis players to emerge.

And he credits his Irish citizenship, and the experience he gained in the State, for his rapid progress in the sport.
“I am currently working with Matthew Rendina at Castleknock Tennis Club,” he says of his current Irish involvement. 

“Matthew plays in the junior ITF tournament and recently came back from Malta for the Tennis Europe under-16 tournaments.”
Meanwhile, in his native country, Ehirim says he worked earlier this year with ITF player Ikechukwu Iloputa, who coincidentally was his ball boy when he was Nigeria’s top player several years ago. 

“Iloputa is presently a top-15 Nigerian tennis player,” he says, adding that he has pledged to continue supporting both Iloputa and other promising Nigerian players in the future.

Back in the US, where he has been coaching since 2013, Ehirim says he has made remarkable progress in his dream to become one of the most successful international tennis coaches. Already, he explains he has been involved in the coaching of high-profile young players. 

“The US has more opportunities, especially in the area of top training facilities and equipments, as well as more tournaments,” he says. “Since I arrived at the club in New Jersey, I have helped a lot of young kids achieve their targets of playing for schools and getting scholarships through working hard with me on the tennis court.

“Some achieved national rankings, like my top two boys in grade 11, Sam Vagner and Jack Kosiorowski, who have both won a lot of tournaments under my guidance and are playing for top singles spots for their various schools.”
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