by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In Lagos, he is the top seed in the Men’s Singles event, he is the favourite for gold and seemingly in good form.
Earlier this year he won the ITTF-Africa Cup and is certainly hoping that one celebration will follow another.
“I will be celebrating my birthday tomorrow and I am hopeful that I can win this title to celebrate my birthday in a grand style. But I must also say that it is not going to be easy with the quality of players in this year’s tournament. However, my Africa Cup title will surely spur me on to do well and make my country proud. I must commend the local organising committee for ensuring that we have quality players this year. I think this is best so far in the last four years and I am hoping that it will continue to attract more quality stars across the world.” Quadri Aruna
Notably, the next four names in the order of merit have all achieved what Quadri Aruna has not achieved; all have won ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles.
Undoubtedly Quadri Aruna has a goal but so does Egypt’s Omar Assar who beat Quadri Aruna in the 2015 Lagos final; the no.2 seed, he is in search of three titles and in search of maintaining his unbeaten record, to date he has never lost in Lagos!
On the occasion when the tournament was first part of the ITTF World Tour in 2014, he beat colleague, El-Sayed Lashin in the final.
Similarly, Qatar’s Li Ping, the no.3 seed in the Men’s Singles event in Lagos and Finland’s Benedek Olah, the no.4 seed, both have stood tall on the top step of the podium. Benedek Olah is the defending champion; Li Ping won in Minsk in 2015.
However, make a note of the next player in line; 23 year old Frenchman, Antoine Hachard; safe and secure, he won in 2016 in Chile. Could he provide an upset?
Equally in the Women’s Singles event Portugal’s Shao Jieni, like Omar Assar is seeking three titles; she is looking for three in a row, having beaten Egypt’s Dina Meshref in the 2015 final and last year Hungary’s Szandra Pergel.
Both runners up are on duty this year, Dina Meshref is the no.3 seed and like Quadri Aruna is searching for her first such title; Szandra Pergel, the no.2 seed, is seeking a third Challenge tournament win.
She won in 2012 in both Antwerp and Zagreb; like Shao Jieni can she make it three Challenge titles by winning in Lagos or for Dina Meshref, who played in both 2014 and 2015 in Lagos, could it be third time lucky?