Home favourite Quadri Aruna is seeded first in the men’s singles draw as he aims to regain the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Africa Cup title in Nigerian city Lagos, where action is due to begin tomorrow.
The winner of both the men’s and women’s singles events will secure a place at the respective ITTF World Cups, scheduled to take place in Chengdu in China later this year.
Aruna is aiming for his sixth ITTF World Cup appearance but is likely to face a strong challenge from second seed Ahmed Saleh and third seed Omar Assar, both of whom are from Egypt.
Saleh has a total of five ITTF World Cup appearances to his name, with the first being in 1998 in Shantou in China and the most recent in 2011 in Paris.
Approaching his 40th birthday, he is one of the most experienced players on duty in Lagos.
Assar, meanwhile, is going in search of his third ITTF Africa Cup title and his third ITTF World Cup appearance.
He and Aruna have played each other in the five most recent editions of the continental tournament.
All the meetings have come in finals, with the exception of 2015 in Cameroon's capital Yaoundé where Assar prevailed in the semi-finals before going onto claim the title.
He repeated the success last year, winning in Kenya's capital Nairobi, while Aruna triumphed in 2014 in Lagos, in 2016 in Sudan's capital Khartoum and in 2017 in Moroccan city Agadir.
Fourth-seeded Nigerian Segun Toriola, who will celebrate his 45th birthday next month, is also expected to be in contention for glory.
The winner of the ITTF Africa Cup title in 2008 in Conga's capital Brazzaville, Toriola has made four ITTF World Cup appearances with his first in 1996 in French city Nîmes and the latest in 2008 in Belgian city Liège.
"I don’t think I will be under any pressure playing in Lagos particularly with the support from the fans," Aruna said.
"I am ready to compete against anybody because I will always want to make my country proud.
"There is no doubt that it is going to be tough because everybody is playing well now."
In the women's singles event, Egypt’s Dina Meshref will be looking to defend her title.
The American University in Cairo graduate is the only African female player to be ranked in the world's top 60, currently occupying 49th spot.
"I will just try to give my best as I am trying to prepare well for the competition," Meshref, who has competed in the last four ITTF World Cups, said.
"Of course it won’t be easy in Lagos.
"I expect all players to be very well prepared for such an event, especially as it’s a few days prior to another important event (the 2019 African Games in Morocco's capital Rabat).
"I consider all players competing in the event as my potential rivals and strong competition."
The two venues listed as being used for the event are the Sir Molade Okoya Thomas Indoor Sports Hall and the Teslim Balogun Stadium.