Nigeria and Africa’s table tennis star, Aruna Quadri, says the country’s style of play will count as an advantage as the 2019 ITTF Nigeria Open Seamaster Challenge Plus gets underway on Wednesday, August 7th.
The competition is holding at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
A total of 105 men and 66 women athletes from 32 nations are playing for the prize in 21 events.
Quadri who won bronze at the 2019 Africa Cup concluded also in Lagos by the weekend said the competition is making the sport more popular. He added that fans should expect lots of surprises from Nigerian players.
He said at a media briefing held in Lagos on Tuesday, “Some of these Europeans always find it difficult adjusting to our style of play. Four years ago, several Nigerians won some Europeans here, so we should be expecting some surprises again. The Nigerians have been in camp for a long time and so they have improved a lot already and a very good example is Taiwo Mati.
“Our style of play is strange and the Europeans style is like too straight but here in Nigeria and several places in Africa we have strange styles that they really do not understand.”
Quadri, seeded Number 1, won the 2018 edition of the Seamaster Challenge Open Plus and is confident he can repeat the feat.
“Just like I won last year, I didn’t believe but of course I strongly believe in myself now. It is very possible again to repeat last year’s feat but it is going to be very difficult not just for me but for almost all the participants.”
The president, Nigeria Table Tennis Federation, Ishaku Tikon, is also confident Quadri will put up a good showing.
Tikon said that his loss to eventual winner, Omar Assar of Egypt will not have any impact on his performance in the Open.
“Don’t forget he came first last year, the fact that he lost in the African Cup does not mean that his name has changed. He is still the same Aruna Quadri and we are confident as a federation that he will still repeat the same feat.”
On the tournament he added, “Last year we had 25 countries that participated, this year we have over 32 so we are expecting a more explosive tournament. The way the organisation is going on the input of the LOC and of course the quality of work that has been done to attract the star players from around the globe should tell Nigerians that they are going to witness table tennis they have never witnessed before”.
Stars to look out for include Frenchman, Alexandre Rabinot who will be defending his doubles title with a different partner, compatriot Andrea Landrieu. Their biggest hurdle might be the familiar face of Alexandre’s brother and no.1 seed, Quentin Rabinot, who will be lining up with Belgian Cédric Nuytinck.
In the women’s doubles, top seeds Farah Abdel-Aziz and Yousra Helmy look set to keep the Egyptian flag flying high, should they manage to see off high quality competition in the form of the Algerian duo of Katia Kessaci and Lynda Loghraibi.
Playing mixed doubles at the Nigeria Open for the first time, Egyptian pairing Khalid Assar and Yousra Helmy will look towards the crowd for some continental support. Standing in their way towards glory is the German duo of Kilian Ort and Wan Yuan, seeded No.5.
Seven titles including men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, under 21 men’s singles, under 21 women’s singles and for the first time, mixed doubles are on offer this year.