“Now this young girl is very different: super athlete. Very handy. Only a few can get away with that style.” – Nick Bolletieri (Founder, IMG Tennis Academy)
Young but energetic, she beams with a radiating smile that could melt a saddening heart. Her sporting expedition, especially in tennis, has propelled her to places across the globe and earned her enticing accolades. She is a super athlete whose style of maneuverings on the long tennis court leaves many onlookers amazed. She is 13-year-old Marylove Edwards, who has been making Nigeria proud in tennis.
Introduced to tennis at age 2, Marylove’s journey in playing tennis began when she was 4 years. Her father, a man of rare foresight, discovered and has nurtured the teenager’s potentials in the game. He did not only become a father to the young girl, but also her coach ― an appellation she always takes pride in. Through continuous training with her father, Marylove has become a champion in tennis; winning various contests in Nigeria, Africa and even in the United States.
Nothing dignifies an individual than being true to oneself. Even though many liken her to the famous global tennis icon, Serena Williams, such that some people call her ‘the Nigerian Serena,’ Marylove has often renounced the designation. Despite her admiration for Serena, she prefers being herself and no one else.
“Because I play with a lot of power, people call me ‘Nigerian Serena’. I love Serena and the way she plays, but I tell them I would love to be myself, just being Marylove Edwards,” she told the BBC.
Barely twenty days after training at the renowned IMG Tennis Academy in Florida had Marylove come out with stunning victories in her contests. For instance, she defeated her opponent in two straight sets with an emphatic 6-0, 6-1 win to claim her first trophy in the U.S. and climaxed the competition by winning all her matches convincingly in two sets apiece.
Surprisingly to observers, Marylove returned to Nigeria to participate in the Nigerian Tennis circuit when she emerged as the first junior to make it to the finals of the CBN Women Seniors. In her words, “I became number four in Nigeria for the senior category by getting in the finals of Senior CBN championship; beating older players along the way.”
Many of her colleagues find it tasking to know what the game ‘tennis’ is all about. But she finds time to explain the beauty of the game to them; hoping someday they too could be spurred to participating in it. Her engagement in tennis has not been a barrier to her education as she speaks impeccable English when talking to news correspondents. This, considering her humble background, is a good combination of intelligence and talent, which should be a source of inspiration to many teenagers that they can be the best too in whatever they do.
Likewise, her resolve and determination even when faced with intimidation during contest is inviting. “The best part of my game is my ability of never giving up even when I’m down in a match, when I’m losing, I still keep fighting. Even though my opponent is older than me, they try to intimidate me, but I keep fighting and never give up,” Marylove said.
Today, many young people are faced with surmountable challenges but they lose out because they give up. Their giving up brings avoidable failure; thereby leading to the display of Napoleon Hill’s submission that: “One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat.”
Therefore, Marylove’s ability of never giving up is an indication that success should be pursued with resilience and fervor. After all, there is no royal road to greatness. More so, whatever mistakes that are made amidst challenges would often serve as stepping stones to greater heights and victory.
Marylove has been making waves with a sense of purpose. At 13, she has already foreseen where she would like to be at age 15: “I want to see myself playing in WTA – Women’s Tennis Association – in the next two years. That would be a big achievement for me. I could be the Nigerian first Grand Slam winner in history! And who knows? Maybe become champions of the world!”
Yes, Marylove has what it takes to be the first Nigerian Grand Slam winner in history. With the admirable mentorship she has been exposed to by her father, the professional training at the world-renowned IMG Tennis Academy in Florida and other meritorious supports she has got from the Lagos-based pan-African talent agency, Temple Management Company, TMC, there is no doubt that the making of a future grand slam winner has begun!