Italy-based duo of Ojo Onaolapo and Olajide Omotayo believe the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour tagged Lagos Open would provide Nigerian players another opportunity to confirm their superiority in the sport.
Onaolapo, who was a member of the Nigerian team at the last ITTF Africa Senior Championships last month, would not want to remember the defeats he suffered to Egypt’s El-Sayed Lashin twice in Cairo, while Omotayo would not want the memory of his poor performance in 2014 to distract him during the 2015 Lagos Open.
Onaolapo, a silver medalist in the men’s doubles event at the Africa Senior Championships is hoping to use the tournament to settle scores with the Egyptians.
“My expectation for this year’s tournament is for me to train hard so that I can perform well in any pro tournament this year.
“It was a bit difficult for me in my first tournament for the year especially with my recent move to Europe. After returning to Europe I have corrected some of the mistakes that I made in Cairo at the Africa Senior Championship,” he said.
According to the Commonwealth Games bronze medalist: “My target is to win the both the U-21 and the men’s singles by God’s grace. I know I had to focus throughout the tournament because there is nothing impossible in table tennis and in life.”
For Onaolapo, the Egyptians would not have their way in Lagos. “I am not seeing the Egyptians as threats to my ambition because losing in Cairo has been forgotten. But I am in good mood to take on any of them and for me to overcome them, I just have to believe in myself because they are beatable,” he said.
As the defending champion of the U-21 event, Onaolapo said he is in form to participate in the Lagos Open as he is hoping for Nigeria’s dominance in the competition.
“I believe I can make good impact in the tournament because I am now 100 percent ready because I started my training after the Cairo tournament. There is no doubt that Nigerian players led by ITTF Star Player, Aruna Quadri can dominate the tournament. But I know the Egyptians are not pushovers so we should not look down on them. Other European players are also going to be tough,” Onaolapo said.
Unlike Onaolapo who has something to show for his efforts in 2014, Omotayo failed to dazzle the Lagos fans after he was bundled out of the tournament early having being considered as the next big thing in Africa table tennis circuit.
“I know that this year’s tournament will be more competitive because the Egyptians are coming with most of their best players and I am optimistic that Nigerian players will give them a run for the title. We are hoping to do what the Egyptian did at the just concluded ITTF Africa Senior Championships,” he said.
He added: “What happened last year has taught me that I must train well and not to rely on my skills alone. But this year, I am ready to put in my best this time around to make my fans, family and the board of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) for what they have done to the game since they have come on board. My main target is to win the U-21 category and I am also targeting a good spot in the men’s singles event.”
With the presence of the current ITTF Star Player, Aruna Quadri and Africa champion, Egypt’s Omar Assar, Omotayo believes they would inspire him to impress.
“I believe I can make an impact at the tournament because I also been looking for an opportunity like this which I think it will trigger me to give my 100 percent participating alongside Quadri, Assar and so many more. For me it is an honour to have the 2014 ITTF male best player in our midst,” Omotayo concluded.