The two most recognizable names in women tennis, Venus and Serena Williams literally grinded Lagos state to a halt yesterday, Wednesday.
On their first official day out in Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, the sisters practically stopped the free flow of traffic along the Ahmadu Bello Way, Osborne Road and some parts of Ikoyi.
Surrounded by stern-looking security details, who went about their job professionally, the Williams sisters, who were accompanied by their mother, Oracene, got a rousing ovation reserved only for royalty at the Federal Palace Hotel and the Ikoyi Club 1938, where all the adjoining streets to the exclusive club, were closed to traffic because of them.
At the club, where chants of their names resonated at intervals, the sisters conducted a tennis clinic for about 700 kids who were thrilled by this once in a lifetime opportunity of knocking around tennis balls with the famed duo.
Serena, who hoped that their tour of Nigeria will turn around the fortunes of tennis in the country as well as empower women and the girl-child said, “Nigerian girl must rise and achieve her potential. Its so amazing being here for the first time. I tried several times but I’m glad I made it this time around”.
Serena, who has 15 Grand Slam titles under her belt, revealed a long term dream come true for her – being in Nigeria.
“We are excited to be in Nigeria. My first time was a brief stop over when I traveled to an African country a few years back. It was disappointing that I could not interact with Nigerians back then, that’s why I’m going to cherish every minute I have to spend here now.
“It also makes me crazy to know that we have many fans in Nigeria, in fact, I receive thousands of messages everyday on Twitter from Nigerians who were asking if I would come here. Well here I am and It will be an honour to play against my sister for Nigerians and we will give you a good show..
“I hope that our presence and what we do would help to change Nigerian tennis. I hope that these players will be inspired to become the best”, added Serena, who last weekend won the WTA Tour Championship in Istanbul, by beating Russia’s Maria Sharapova in Turkey.