*Egyptian Meshref wins women’s Singles event
By Duro Ikhazuagbe
After overcoming Egyptian Ahmed Saleh 4-1 to win his first ITTF African Championships title in Mauritius yesterday, Aruna Quadri, 30, jumped for joy that at last he has added that missing link to his rich trophy chest.
“I am happy that I am winning this African Championships title for the first time particularly less than one month after I won the ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open in Lagos,” gushed Africa’s numero uno table tennis star.
Aruna who is perhaps the biggest table tennis export from Nigeria to the world at the moment did not drop a point all the way to the final from the first round.
It was a sweet victory for Aruna as he snatched the title from an Egyptian.
His biggest rival in the continent, Egypt’s Omar Assar denied Aruna his first African Championship honour way back in 2016.
He however paid glowing tributes to the Indian Island Mauritian fans who rooted solidly for him all through the week-long championship.
“I am grateful to the Mauritian fans for their support throughout all my matches,” Aruna noted with gratitude.
With the African Championship title in the bag, Aruna insisted that to complete the circle of winning all table tennis titles in Africa, he was now shifting his focus to the All Africa Games gold medal that has continued to elude him.
“I think I have won virtually all the titles in African table tennis. The only one I am still hungry to win is the African Games title which I believe I will continue to work hard in order to win it next year in Morocco,” he pledged.
Aruna who reached the quarter finals in the Men’s Singles competition of the World Cup 2014 also proved a worthy ambassador of Nigeria battling Rio 2016 Olymoic Games Number One seed, China’s Ma Long to standstill in the quarter final but eventually lost.
In 2014, Aruna was ranked number 30 in world table tennis, and the International Table Tennis Federation named him the Star Player of the year. His peak world ranking was 25, which he held from September 2016 to January 2017. Currently he is ranked 27th in the ITTF male world rankings.
In the women’s singles of the 2018 ITTF African Championships, Dina Meshref, who lost the title to Nigeria’s Olufunke Oshonaike in 2016, reclaimed the African honour after a convincing 4-0 win over compatriot, Reem El-Eraky.
Despite her victory, Meshref admitted that it was a bit hard to win back the laurel particularly with strong opposition from Nigeria’s Edem Offiong in the semifinal.
“I am happy winning my title back but it was not an easy task particularly with the match against Edem Offiong. But in all I am happy as I look forward to the ITTF World Cup which is my next tournament this year,” she told ITTF website last night.