American tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams are set to arrive in Nigeria’s largest city on Tuesday as part of a two-nation tour that will see them play exhibition matches to promote women’s rights.
The sisters are both counted among the United States’ most accomplished athletes, sharing 22 major women’s singles championships between them.
Their trip is aimed at promoting “the role that women play in shifting perceptions and encouraging development at all levels across the African continent,” said a statement from the Breaking The Mould initiative they are representing.
Serena, 31, and Venus, 32, are due to meet the governor of Lagos state, hold a tennis clinic at an exclusive club, visit a puberty education class for girls and play an exhibition match before heading to South Africa on November 2.
“They are coming to Lagos to encourage more women to break moulds that have stood between them and their potentials,” the statement said.
Gender disparity is an acute problem in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country of roughly 160 million people, with the most glaring divides existing in the mainly Muslim north.
Worldwide, Nigeria ranks 118 out of 134 countries on the Gender Equality Index, a British Council study released in May said.
Police break up Tomic brawl
Police were called to break up a fight between Australia’s struggling number one tennis hope Bernard Tomic and a male friend after a night of partying, reports said on Tuesday.
Queensland state police said they attended a disturbance at Surfers Paradise, on the Gold Coast, early Monday but no arrests were made or charges laid.
“We spoke to a couple of males and that was it,” a police spokesman told AFP.
According to the Gold Coast Bulletin, police “separated the two men before the tennis ace turned on officers”.
“He reminded police of ‘who he was’ and accused officers of running a hate campaign against him,” the newspaper said, citing police sources.
Tomic, who has not won a match since the second round in Bangkok more than a month ago, is no stranger to controversy, with a case related to alleged traffic offences due before a Queensland court in coming days.
Those charges stem from an incident in January when he was fined twice in the space of an hour as he drove his orange BMW M3.
Police allege he refused to stop when asked to pull over a third time.
The player, who turned 20 this month, has also sparked controversy on the court, with John McEnroe accusing him of “tanking” in his US Open loss to Andy Roddick in late August.
Tomic’s lawyer Chris Nyst told the Brisbane Courier Mail newspaper there was no suggestion his client had committed any offence in the latest incident.
“If there is, he certainly hasn’t been charged or even questioned about it. So I’m really not sure what all the ruckus is about,” he said.
Roger Rasheed, who formerly coached Australian Lleyton Hewitt and has recently been working with Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, said Tomic needed a break from tennis and should replace his father as coach.
“I’m not sure if he’s got the people in front of him to be able to position him in the right place right now, which is unfortunate,” Rasheed told Sky Sports radio.
“His father’s aware of it but he needs a coach, there’s no doubt about it. His father’s done a great job to get him to position A but position A is not where it’s at now for him.”
Rasheed said it also appeared there was “work to do off the court” to help the talented player, currently ranked world number 49, find his motivation. “To be honest, I think he’s rebelling against the whole system,” Rasheed said.
“I wouldn’t hit another ball if I was Bernard Tomic. I would just sort everything out, see where I’m at. You need to sort out the basics and the platform otherwise it’ll raise it’s ugly head again.”