Tennis Central invites to Teen World Open Naples 2022 promising, professional-level teenage players from around the world who would benefit the most from financial support of their career dreams. Marylove Edwards is one such young star in Nigeria who idolized Serena and Venus Williams as a little girl just starting to play.
The expense of playing tournaments is one of the biggest hurdles to her success, as it takes playing at many of them to improve upon the former IMG Academy player's career-best 222 ITF ranking.
Tennis is also not the first choice of sport for many of the African sponsors who might view Marylove as a potential investment, since football (soccer) takes the spotlight firmly there.
When did you start playing tennis?
I started playing tennis when I was 4 years old. I am seventeen years old now.
Why did you choose to play tennis?
My dad introduced me. He's a tennis coach, and he got me into playing tennis.
Is tennis popular in your town?
Tennis is not popular in Nigeria. Football is popular and more people grow up wanting to play football.
Who were your idols growing up?
My idols when I was younger were the Williams sisters, they are amazing.
What are your best achievements so far?
Tennis in Africa is very difficult because of expenses. I went to school in the U.S. and went to IMG for high school, played some ITFs in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, which is really fun. The higher level you play at, the more expensive it gets. Now I am top-250, so I play G1, G2, G3, and it is really expensive. Improving my ITF ranking was the best achievement. 222 was my highest ranking.
What was it like growing up in Nigeria?
I went to IMG Academy when I was 13, seventh grade. Before then in Nigeria I was playing local tournaments. I went to IMG for three years, then back to Nigeria where I started competing more and finding people to sponsor my tennis so I could play internationally.
What family do you have and what do they do?
My mum, dad and little brother who is 11 and also plays tennis. We are a big tennis family, and it is very important to me.
What challenges did you face playing tournaments and traveling?
Money was an issue. Management looks for companies to sponsor me. There is a company in Nigeria that sponsors me for specific tournaments. There are loads more sponsors for football players than for tennis players, not only in Nigeria but in the whole of Africa where they are.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to start playing ITF seniors this year. The dream is to be a professional tennis player, maybe being a college tennis player too.
Where does your financial help come from?
Management and Dad helped with it. Now I'm not sponsored by anyone. I pick out tournaments that are not that expensive, like one in Tunisia. I always go with my Dad to tournaments. He is the main coach.