LAGOS – Africa’s top-ranked table tennis player and local favourite Aruna Quadri says he’s confident but not desperate to retain the crown he won last year when the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open serves off today at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
Quadri who turns 31-years-old during the tournament will vie with athletes from about 32 countries for the $7,000 prize money on offer to the winner of the tournament.
And speaking about his chances of successfully defending the title which he won last year by defeating Frenchman Antoine Hachard in the final, the Nigerian said winning this time around would be “very, very difficult” for every player at the tournament and that while he would be “very happy” to win again, he isn’t completely consumed by thoughts of retaining the title at all costs because he could then be driven “to do something that would not be normal” such as doping in order to win.
“I won last year, I didn’t believe but of course, I strongly believe in myself. It would be very possible again to repeat last year’s feat but it will be very, very difficult not just for me but for almost all the participants,” Quadri told busybuddiesng.com.
“I will be very happy if I am able to retain it, but of course I’m not just thinking in retaining the title, if I were thinking about retaining the title one hundred percent, I will just do something that will not be normal, maybe I will just go and dope but of course, I am going to be giving my one hundred percent to my country.”
Quadri also predicted a good showing for teenage prodigy and African Cadet Champion Mati Taiwo who he said could be one of many Nigerian players that could shock more established European players.
The Portugal-based player said Nigerian players could pull off plenty of shocks due to their “strange style of play” which he said regularly flummoxes Europeans who find it difficult to deal with.
“We should be looking forward to almost all the Nigeria players because of our style of play,” Quadri said about his expectations for his teammates.
“Some of these Europeans, they always find it difficult to get used to our style of play. Our style of play is strange, the European style is like, too straight, here in Nigeria and several places in Africa we have strange styles and they really do not understand it.
“Like four or five years ago several Nigerians won against several Europeans here because of our style of play. So, we should be expecting some kind of big surprises because some of the players here they were in camp before this tournament, so they have improved a lot already and a very good example is Mati Taiwo.”