Toriola withdraws as Egypt’s Assar set to create third title record
NIGERIA’S Segun Toriola has withdrawn from the $46,000 prize money championship, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour, Lagos Open, which serves off on March 10 at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium, citing his French club, Argentan Bayard, refusal to release him.
The French club has a crucial encounter against Roanne lntt on March 10, which forced it to hold on to the former African champion.
Confirming this development at the weekend, Toriola said the exit of one of the club’s top players may have put the pressure on him as the most experienced player.
“We had a Chinese player, who was playing for our team toward the end of last year, but he was sacked because of poor performance so the onus now rests on me to lift the team. On March 10 when the Lagos ITTF World Tour will kick off, we are to face Roanne lntt.
“We tried to appeal to our opponent to postpone the match but they refused our request. This has made it impossible for me to leave the team because I cannot play a match on March 10 and travel again to Lagos on March 11, it will be too stressful for me,” Toriola said.
Meanwhile, the defending champion, Egypt’s Omar Assar, believes he has the wherewithal to set a record of clinching the competition for the third time.
As the defending champion, Assar believes the fans have always given him moral support to triumph at previous championships.
“I have respect for all the players in the tournament especially my teammates as well as Nigerian players. It is always fun to play in
Lagos and I always look forward to the competition every year and I have also included it in my schedule since I played my first tournament in 2013,” he said.
The 43rd world rated player admitted that he expects tough opposition in Lagos but that he is optimistic he will retain the title.
“I am always nervous in every tournament I play even when I am listed as the top seed. This does not matter to me because I am always focused during the preparation and dreaming about coming first as well as clinching the gold medal,” he added.
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