With five days of hostilities left in Durban, South Africa, venue of the 2023 International Table Tennis Federation World Table Tennis Championships, one of Africa’s hopes of mounting the podium was dashed on Tuesday evening when Aruna Quadri narrowly lost out in the round of 32.
Being one of the most active African players globally this year, and also the continent’s poster boy, the 20th ranked player headed to Durban with the hope of taking the world by storm, even though it was always going to be difficult.
The ongoing Table Tennis World Championship in Durban has in attendance 255 players in the men and women singles event, ping pong experts across the world converged on the International convention center in Durban.
Aruna has been Africa’s biggest achiever on the global stage, he remains the only African to reach the quarter final of the Olympic games, a feat he achieved in Rio, Brazil in 2016 when he defeated Germany’s Timo Boll (4-2),who was rated 13th in the world as at then.
Quadri is also the only African player to get to the last 4 of the WTT star contender series, a feat he achieved in Qatar at the expense of Zhou Qihao.
With Aruna’s exit, all eyes will now be on his former teammate in Portugal and reigning African Champion, Omar Assar.
While Aruna is also the first African to win a title outside the continent in the singles event with his 2017 triumph in the Polish Open, Assar’s exploit is restricted to the African continent, bar club engagements.
Though a decent ball hitter, fighter and one of Africa’s greatest ever, the Egyptian needs more than a hundred percent to deliver Africa’s first title at the World championship when he faces Truls Moregard of Sweden in the round of 32.
The last Nigerian standing is Portugal based rising star, Taiwo Matti, he’s tipped to stand the test of time by several stakeholders. Already, reaching the round of 32 is a huge one for him, it’s a reflection of a change of environment and rigorous training sessions in Europe.
If there’s anyone capable of causing major upsets, the 2021 ITTF World youth championship Bronze medalist ticks all boxes, but it’s not out of place if he’s allowed to enjoy himself,rather than load his tiny shoulders with expectations, he’s up against Jang Woojin of South Korea later today.
In the female category, Egypt’s Dina Meshref is up against Miyuu Kihara of Japan, she’s the only African female player left after the exit of Funke Oshonaike, Edem Offiong, Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou and the likes.
Meshref is Africa’s top rated Women player, an Olympian and a left hander who has a rich trophy cabinet, she’s consistently dominated Africa, but here she is again at the World stage saddled with the responsibility of making it count for Egypt and Africa as the last woman standing.
It’s however pertinent to note that World number one, China’s Fan Zhendong, number 3, China’s Ma Long and Lin Gaoyuan who is current world number 4 are also in contention for the top prizes.
Also at stake is elevation in the World ratings, a plus for all players who have given a good account of themselves, particularly at the Africa games in Ghana draws nearer, as well as the Olympic games in Paris, France in 2024