by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Agnes Onoja experienced defeat at the hands of 23 year old colleague, Funmiola Ajala (12-10, 11-6, 11-8, 11-4); Esther Oribamise was beaten by Russia’s 37 year old Irina Ermakova (11-7, 11-4, 11-2, 11-7).
Defeat for at the hands of a colleague is rarely a true reflection of the standard achieved; likewise for Esther Oribamese, the reverse was hardly a shock. In fact it was quite the opposite; Irina Ermakova has been on the brink of Russian national team selection on many occasions when major tournaments are in question.
Furthermore, in May 2015, she reached no.238 on the Women’s World Rankings; last year she progressed safely through the qualification stage of the Women’s Singles event at the Asarel 2017 ITTF World Tour Bulgarian Open but since that tournament has been absent from international play. Thus earlier this year in January her world ranking lapsed.
Notably, she has played in every open international tournament staged in Nigeria since the event joined the ITTF World Tour in 2014 and she has enjoyed success. In 2015 she reached the quarter-final stage of the Women’s Singles event, losing to the champion elect, Portugal’s Shao Jieni; last year she won the Women’s Doubles in partnership with colleague Olga Kulikova.
Both Irina Ermakova and Funmiola Ajala, each with one match still to play, are very much on route to top spot in their relevant groups. Additionally, Irina Ermakova beat South Africa’s Danisha Patel (11-4, 13-11, 11-4, 12-10), Funmiola Ajala accounted for compatriot Sidikat Yaya (11-3, 11-8, 11-3, 11-4).
However, for Esther Oribamese and Agnes Onoja, the door is not closed; players finishing in first and second places in each of the 12 groups join the eight seeds in the main draw. In their remaining matches on day one, Esther Oribamise beat colleague Rofiat Jimoh (11-3, 13-11, 11-5, 11-4), Agnes Onoja received a walk-over against Ghana’s Lawrencia Dei.
Meanwhile, for the remaining players who possess World Rankings and are required to compete in the Women’s Singles qualification stage, it was a day without defeat.
Egypt’s Yousra Helmy, Farah Abdel-Aziz and Amira Yousry alongside Italy’s Giorgia Piccolin and Nigeria’s Cecila Akpan ended the day unbeaten. In fact Cecilia Akpan completed her first stage matches and thus reserved her main draw place.
The initial phase of the Women’s Singles event concludes on Thursday 10th August.