Top seeds in the men and women singles will take to the table today as the main draw of the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open enters the third day – after the preliminaries in which unseeded players slugged it out to eliminate each other for places in the main draw.
These upcoming players in the game would now test their mettle against some of the top seeds in the first round of the tournament.
Excitement continues to build among thousands of fans thronging the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall venue of the tournament inside the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
Seven titles are at stake in this elite tournament on African soil with $60,000 prize money up for grabs.
Home boy and defending champion, Aruna Quadri, has put the disappointment of the ITTF Africa Cup behind him. He would aim to emulate Egypt’s Omar Assar as the only player to have defended his title at this tournament.
During the opening press conference on Tuesday August 6, Quadri, who is seeded number one in the men’s singles, said he would not be playing under any pressure as he aims to give his best and make Nigeria proud.
Also in for the title is Belgium’s Cedric Nuytinck from whom many fans here expect surprises because aspects of his play appear unconventional even as he is famous for being a player for the big occasion such as the Nigeria Open.
Slovenia’s Bojan Tokic, known in table tennis fandom as “the gentle giant”, is also here. The 38-year-old Slovak is expected to delight with his tricky style of play which usually confuse opponents.
Robert Gardos, 40, is considered one of the hardest working players in the world even at that age. Gardos, a finalist at the 2019 Hungarian Open, is another star to watch out for here.
In the women category, Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova leads the pack as the Southpaw aims for a title away from Europe.
On the pecking order is Russia’s Polina Mikhailova. The 32-year-old is looking for her first title in Africa.
African champion and winner of the just concluded ITTF Africa Cup, Dina Meshref, hopes to reclaim her title this year, having missed the 2018 edition.
25-year-old Yana Noskova will want to use the tournament to shape up for the European season, even as the Russian would aim to garner points qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.
All 32 seeded players in the men and 16 seeded in the women singles will be in action.