by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
Notably returning to the fray, having been out of action for more than a year is India’s Soumyajit Ghosh, the winner in 2017 in Chile.
“I am very happy to participate in the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open. I have heard a lot about the tournament but never had an opportunity. I have heard from friends that it is a good tournament to play and the crowd is very expressive. My expectation from myself is just play my best as I am coming back to the game after a long time absence from the international circuit. Right now I just want to start the matches; then later I can set some targets; this will be my first visit to Africa.” Soumyajit Ghosh
A first for Soumyajit Ghosh but not for his colleague, India’s Mudit Dani will compete once again as will Luxembourg’s Sarah de Nutte.
“The crowd at the ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open was the biggest highlights, the difference between this event and others. Everyone was super energetic. Not only did they support Nigerian players but it seemed like they came to support the game. It was a truly special feeling to play in Lagos. The crowds, their energy, the atmosphere was electric. It is like no other tournament I have played anywhere in the world and this is the feeling shared by many players who I have spoken to.” Mudit Dani
Equally, Mudit Dani had high praise for the organisation.
“It is a very well organised event. The hotel and food are good; the hall is nice and always filled with energetic crowds. The players are well cared for in terms of transport, lounge and security. My experience at the 2018 Nigeria Open was great! The crowd, playing conditions and hospitality were all perfect. Being my first ever senior Challenge event made it even more special. If I had to put it briefly, I hope to be back again this year because it was one of the most memorable weeks of my life.” Mudit Dani.
Similarly, Sarah De Nutte recognized the enthusiasm of the fans.
“The atmosphere in Lagos is great; there are not many tournaments with that many spectators like in Lagos. I think it’s so nice to play there because the crowd is always fun and excited to see some table tennis matches and are always cheering the players, no matter where they are from.” Sarah de Nutte
Looking forward to competing in Lagos, it is the same for Austria’s Robert Gardos; he is the no.4 seed in the men’s singles event behind the host nation’s Quadri Aruna, Belgium’s Cédric Nuytinck and Slovenia’s Bojan Tokic.
“I think the tournament fits into my calendar for the new season’s preparation. I will try to achieve a good result for my ranking in order to qualify for the next Olympic Games in Japan. I have never been to Nigeria before. I am aware it is a Challenge Plus tournament which has always been well organized in the past and there is an exciting atmosphere. I hope to play at a good level and be among the top four in the men’s singles. I was in Egypt for a tournament a long time ago, where I also had a vacation. I have not visited many countries in Africa before. I hope to enjoy every moment in Lagos.” Robert Gardos
It is a similar situation for Germany’s Bastien Steger, the no.8 seed in the men’s singles event, he is looking forward to new Bundesliga campaign.
“I decided to play the Nigeria Open because after this week the German Bundesliga starts and I want to play one competition before we begin; so it fits perfect in my schedule to come to Nigeria. I heard it was very good last year with an amazingly loud crowd. I hope I can play well in the tournament but difficult to say a special target. I really want to go as far as possible. It‘s the first time to play a tournament in Africa. So I‘m excited and hope for some nice days in Lagos.” Bastien Steger
A first visit to Africa, for Frenchman Andrea Landrieu, the men’s singles no.9 seed, it is a return to the continent having previously been present several years ago.
“It’s almost my first senior tournament in Africa so I wan to see how it is to play there. I know that the crowd is really hot. I hope it will be a nice tournament in which to play. I hope it will be a nice atmosphere to play and to compete. I want to reach the quarter-final and that will be a good result for me. It’s the first tournament of the season so it will be hard but I would have practised for three weeks, so I hope I will be well prepared. I played seven years ago the Morocco Open. It’s my first time in Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, for Russia’s Yana Noskova, the no.4 seed in the women’s singles event, there is a major goal.
“I have now started my Olympic year, so I will try to play more tournaments for my ranking. Also Nigeria is Challenge Plus tournament where I can amass points. I heard from some Russian players, who had played in Nigeria before that the tournament is nice. it is like all others tournaments with good hotel, good hall and good organization. I will try to show my best. It will be first tournament after a short summer rest. So I hope I will start it good. Also we try to show good result in double event with Polina Mikhailova. I will be visiting Nigeria for the first time and it is really interesting to me to see how things are there.” Yana Noskova
Polina Mikhailova and Yana Noskova occupy the second seeded position in the women’s doubles; Egypt’s Farah Abdel-Aziz and Yousra Helmy reserve top spot.