Friday 2 November 2012

US tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams ended the first leg of their two-nation African tour with a high-profile friendly match on Friday in the Nigerian commercial capital, Lagos.
Venus, 32, beat her 31-year-old sibling Serena in two straight sets of 6-4 and 7-5 in an exhibition match organisers described as the “battle of two sisters”.
Some 2,000 enthusiastic fans, including Nigeria’s former vice president Alex Ekwueme, watched the duo play, cheering and praising their skills and prowess on the court of the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club in the city centre.
“We felt happy playing here in Nigeria”, Serena said after the 90-minute encounter.
The pair showed their appreciation by mixing with the crowd and signing autographs.
The two sisters were given an honourary membership of the prestigious club in recognition of their “immense contributions to the development of the sport”.
The three-time Olympic doubles gold medalists had earlier paired with two teenage girls — a 6-year-old and 9-year-old — in a double friendly before their head-to-head game.
Nigerian tennis sponsor Molade Okoya-Thomas urged Nigerian youths to emulate the Williams sisters.
“You must take tennis seriously. It’s a good sport. It keeps you fit. The children should play tennis,” said Okoya, adding he once cried like a baby watching Serena lose a grand slam game.
The president of Nigeria’s Tennis Federation, Sani Idanusa, said the visit would promote the development of the game in Nigeria and inspire local kids.
“We are glad to have the Williams sisters here. It is a big inspiration to us and a big inspiration to our youths,” Idanusa, a former sports minister, said.
Both sisters, who have won a combined 22 major women’s singles championships, arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday as part of a two-nation visit to promote women’s rights.
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.
The Williams sisters will fly to South Africa later on Friday as part of their tour.
Serena has visited other African nations before, while Venus is visiting the continent for the first time.

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