While other tennis players were busy waiting to get their first rackets before competing, Sadiq Tswako took the bull by the horn, sneaked out to play tennis, and won his first prize money with a squash racket.
His mother would cover up for him most times, as his dad had no idea what was going on, and would not even imagine his son picking balls at the court.
“I started as a ball kid. My dad wouldn’t let me pick, but my mum kept covering up for me,” began the ‘LC to the world’ crooner in an interview with Nigeria Tennis Live.
He never ever envisaged that playing with his squash racket was enough to earn him anything, let alone a whooping N10,000 for a rookie.
“I started playing with my squash racket. A few months later, I competed in a local tournament in Abuja, NCC, we were about 20 players at the club and they needed four players to qualify for the tournament.
“So, we played trials, at least 16 matches, and then, I was the fourth person (with my squash racket) to qualify for the tournament.
“I played to the quarterfinal, and I won like N10,000 so I thought ‘Wow! So you can win this kind of money playing this tournament?’
“So, after the tournament, I gave everything to my mum for covering up,” Tswako, who now runs a foundation, explained.
After winning the prize money, the man fondly called Junior Nadal was determined to take things more seriously, as he had now become the proud owner of a (broken) racket.
This dedication would later take him to Lagos – the big City – for the first time ever, even though his first experience on the trip was not a pleasant one.
He told Nigeria Tennis Live that: “I was seriously into it now, I was taking it seriously now. I started practicing, I got my first racket (a broken racket) from a member.
“After then, I played trials for CBN Juniors and I made it. And then, I was traveling to Lagos for the first time, big city. Wow! So, this thing can actually take me to Lagos. It was a big deal then.
“Had my torchlight Nokia, they stole my phone on the bus, but I wasn’t even worried about the phone. I was just so excited going to Lagos. I was proud to say my phone was stolen in Lagos, that’s how proud I was of my journey.
“I lost so bad, but I was just proud of myself that I was out there. I came back to Abuja and kept practicing.
One of his proudest moments in tennis was still ahead of him, as he appeared on television for the first time, even as a ball kid for some of his idols.
“So, there was a time I was a ball kid at the Davis Cup 2007. Then, they had players like Jonathan Igbinovia, Shehu Lawal, Candy Idoko, Babalola (of course). So, I was picking for them.
“Just watching Jonathan speaking slangs, watching Lawal Shehu – he was a star – so, I was like imagining myself in their shoes, seeing them in the news. I saw myself as a boy picking in the news, I was like I don’t care, I made the news too,” an excited Tswako noted.
We urge the readers of Nigeria Tennis Live to stay tuned for more revelations from the interview with the US-based Nigerian tennis player.