by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Likewise, there was success for the host nation’s leading player, Azeez Solanke, similar to the top four names he received a direct entry to the main draw but like José Pedro Francisco experienced difficult times.
Both needed the full five games to ensure success. Facing Nigerian opponents, Azeez Solanke eventually overcame Mustapha Bello (9-11, 11-6, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7); in an even closer contests José Pedro Francisco accounted for Taiwo Mati (11-5, 8-11, 12-10, 3-11, 11-9).
Testing times but it was not the scenario for the top three names. Likewise facing host nation opposition, Rares Sipos beat Abayomi Animasahun (11-7, 11-6, 11-9) and Carlo Rossi defeated Tobi Falana (11-5, 13-11, 11-7).
“The match was a bit difficult for me because I tried my best from the start to do all that I practised in training. Also my opponent was a bit fast and this goes to show that I need to increase my training and continue to work harder.” Abayomi Animasahun
“First match in any competition is always very difficult. My opponent was a bit tough in the first and third games. I am so excited winning my first match and I look forward to the next match.” Rares Sipos
Somewhat conversely, for Youssef Abdel-Aziz, a European adversary awaited and he was not be upstaged by any of the top three names. He beat Italy’s John Oyebode in three straight games (11-3, 11-8, 11-7).
“I think the atmosphere in Nigeria is awesome; I have seen these kind of fans that shout for every point before. Sometimes the noise will disturb you especially when you are losing. For me I love the atmosphere and I have not seen such an atmosphere before in table tennis; this is my first time of witnessing it. I am eagerly looking forward to doing well because before coming to Nigeria I was told it is always hot and this most times affects the ball. However, I have not experienced it in all my matches and I hope to enjoy the support of the fans; this is good to boost players’ confidence.” Youssef Abdel-Aziz
Wins as predicted, it was very much the same scenario in the remaining opening round Under 21 Men’s Singles matches with players who had topped their respective groups emerging successful.
In all Nigerian duels, Rilwan Akanbi beat Jamiu Ayanwale (11-9, 11-8, 11-8); Nurudeen Hassan accounted for Joshua Oladiran (12-10, 11-7, 11-9).
Meanwhile, in the Under 21 Women’s Singles event, the initial group stage concluded with the host nation’s Agnes Onoja, Alimot Ayinla, Nimota Aregbesola and Abosede Odusanya finishing the day in first places in their respective groups.
They now join the four seeds – Hungary’s Bernadette Balint, Italy’s Giorgi Piccolin, Egypt’s Amira Yousry and Nigeria’s Esther Orabimese – in the main draw.