by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Furthermore, both are charged with maintaining national honour, Egypt is the most successful country in the history of the tournament, an event which first saw the light of day in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 1991.
On that occasion only a Men’s Singles event was held, the winner was Nigeria’s Sule Olalaye but of the ensuing 12 editions, on nine occasions the title has finished in Egyptian hands, the most successful of all being El-Sayed Lashin and Ahmed Ali Saleh; each has won three times.
El-Sayed Lashin won in 1998 on home soil in Cairo, the following year in the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi, before in Oyo, Republic of Congo, regaining the title in 2013. Ahmed Ali Saleh emerged successful in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1997, in 2005 in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo and in 2011 in Rabat when, as in 2017, the tournament was staged in Morocco.
Notably, the name of El-Sayed Lashin does not appear on the 2017 entry list. Ahmed Ali Saleh, now 37 years old will be on duty and thus has the opportunity to win for an unprecedented fourth time. He is the no.3 seed, behind Omar Assar and Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna. The Nigerian is the one other past winner on duty and he has a liking for Morocco. He won in 2009 when the tournament was held in Rabat.
A splendid record for Egypt in the Men’s Singles event, it is the same in the Women’s Singles; the North African country has won gold on six of the 12 occasions that the event has been staged.
Moreover, for Dina Meshref there is an added incentive. She is one of three players, who have won the title twice but she is the only member of the quartet competing in Agadir.
In addition to winning in Yaoundé, Cameroon in 2015; she emerged successful in Rabat fours earlier and thus equals the successes gained by compatriot Shaimaa Abdul-Aziz. She emerged successful on the first two occasions when a Women’s Singles event was staged. She won in Port Elizabeth in 1997 and the following year in Cairo.
The one other player to have won the Women’s Singles title twice is Han Xing from the Republic of Congo; she won in 2009 in Rabat and in 2013 on home turf in Oyo.
A chance for Dina Meshref to become the most successful ever and for one other player, a chance to join the trio who has won twice; Nigeria’s Olufunke Oshonaike, the no.2 seed in Agadir, won in 2001 in El Minia, Egypt.
Seeking to make their mark, Yousra Helmy and Farah Abdel-Aziz, like Dina Meshref from Egypt, complete the top four names in the Women’s Singles event.
Five groups in each of the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events, matches being best of five games, players finishing in first and second places in each group advance to the main draw, where matches are best of seven games and play is organised on a progressive knock-out formula.
The winners are guaranteed an invitation to the respective Liebherr Men’s World Cup and Women’s World Cup to be staged later this year.