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Whitney Osuigwe: Warrior Of The Court

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Like the William sisters, Whitney Osuigwe is soaring in world of tennis. Also like the William sisters, she is American on the court but in reality, the origin of the present number one junior champion in tennis in the United States of America i s Nigerian. Her father who a l s o serves as her coach, again like the William s i s t e r s , Desmond Osuigwe, is a native of Lagos State and a former ATP player from the 1990s. During his childhood, he competed in several ITF tournaments and faced many other challenges, including survival. As a teenager, tennis was a way for Desmond to get out of violence. With hard work and dedication, Desmond made his way to the United States to attend Jackson State University, before turning professional. In 1997, he came to IMG Academy as a tennis coach, where he still works. Desmond says he knew his daughter had the potential to play professionally when she started beating her elder brother at a tender age. This made him enroll her full-time at IMG Academy, a tennis training college in Florida. Young and determined, Osuigwe started putting in eight hours of training and two hours in the gym daily. It is hard enough for anyone to work with their father at anything and working with a Nigerian father is even more demanding. That is what Osuigwe had to endure and that is what made her better and better at every turn of her career. Her first at the Easter Bowl, a popular tournament for junior players in the United States.

Although she was only 13 at the start of 2016, Osuigwe played junior tournaments in the highest division where she competed against players as old as 18. She turned professional last year and from standing at number 111 in the ITF junior girls’ rankings, s h e catapulted straight to number two after winning t h e F r e n c h Open. Within days, she was ranked number one after garnering the highest points in the rankings that was released. Since she rose to number one in the j u n i o r w o r l d rankings, she has held on to the top spot. She became the third United States girl and fourth American junior in the last six years to finish as the world’s year-end number one. The French Open triumph did not come easy for Osuigwe, the ninth-youngest champion in the tournament’s history and the first American to win the event since Jennifer Capriati in 1989. She endured three three-setters on her way to the June 10 final against fellow American Claire Liu, who is 17 years old and had crushed Osuigwe 6-1, 6-1 in a tournament just two months earlier. After splitting the first two sets of the rematch, with Liu winning the second in a tiebreaker, Osuigwe ran out to a 5-1 lead in the final set before finishing off a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 victory. A right handed (double handed backhand) player, Osuigwe’s favourite surface is clay. The 5-foot-6 says initially, playing tennis was about having fun.

But these days, it’s all about winning tournaments. Osuigwe led the United States Junior Fed Cup team to its fourth Junior Fed Cup title in Budapest, Hungary, last September. It was the third championship for the American girls in the last six years; they also won titles in 2008, 2012 and 2014. Both of her siblings, her brother DeAndre, and her sister Victoria, share the same dream of becoming great in the world of sports. Her brother plays basketball and Victoria is following in the line of tennis with the dream of becoming world number one someday. She kicked off 2018 by reaching her first pro singles final at t h e $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Wesley Chapel, Florida the week of January 23 and advanced to the doubles semifinals at the $100,000 tournament in Midland, Michigan. On August 12, 2018, Osuigwe won the USTA girls 18s tennis championship which earned her a wild-card entry into the main draw of the US Open. From a 6-year-old learning tennis in boots and jeans, to now a professional player, Whitney has persevered and worked her way up to the top. She however has her eyes on the Grand Slams and is ready to kick off on that as soon as possible.

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