by Simon Daish
Having enjoyed a wonderful campaign at Rio 2016 where he became the first African to reach the quarter-finals of an Olympic Table Tennis event, Nigerian player Quadri Aruna was aiming to carry over some good form into the World Cup. But Aruna has made a slow start to the tournament in Saarbrücken with a 4-2 loss to Pär Gerell in his opening qualifying group stage match.
The lead actually started in Aruna’s court claiming games one and three to set the bar in the match. Having faced Aruna at this year’s German Open though, Gerell knew his opponent’s style well and brought the tie level with a victory in the fourth end.
Both competitors were well aware of the importance of taking an early win, especially as each qualifying group only consists of three players with the top two from each group progressing. There was very little separating the two rivals for the remainder of the match; Gerell, however, edged the following two games in deuce to pick up a crucial win in the group 4 opener (6-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 12-10, 12-10).
Pär Gerell may have lost to Quadri Aruna at the 2016 German Open earlier in the year, but revenge for Gerell couldn’t have come at a better time and the 34-year-old is optimistic about his chances of qualification:
“I tried to be more aggressive compared to our meeting at the German Open. I also put a lot of spin into my service and put him under a lot of pressure. When it comes to forehand rallies, he is better than me, so I did not allow him to play his game. This win is very important because the three of us in the group have an equal chance to qualify for the Round of 16” – Pär Gerell (Sweden).
Always gracious in defeat, Aruna stated after the conclusion of the match that he felt Gerell had performed better than he had across the tie, “It was a very difficult match for me because I could not cope with his service and this made me have to run all over the court.” Aruna continued, “This also made me tired. He played better than I did and I now look forward to the second match.”