by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The win was totally out of the blue, there was no inkling of evidence that such an upset was on the cards.
Currently Sarthak Gandhi is listed at no.356 on the Men’s World Rankings, his career best being no.322 in November 2016. Conversely, Li Ping won the Men’s Singles title at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Belarus Open and is named at no.45 in the global order; his highest being no.26 in May and June last year.
There is a gulf in status but, of course, whatever 23 year old Sarthak Gandhi may achieve in the future, he can always tell his grandchildren that he beat a World champion; at the H.I.S. 2009 World Championships in Yokohama, Li Ping won the Mixed Doubles title in partnership with Cao Zhen.
“When I realised I would be facing Li Ping, I just made up my mind to play freely because I had nothing to lose against a player like him; when the match was three-one, my heart was beating hard and this cost me the fifth game. Before coming to Nigeria, I featured in a tournament in India and I played badly and this affected my spirit coming into this competition. I think this is the biggest win of my career and I am really happy as my confidence continues to grow. I hope and believe I can go far in this tournament.” Sarthak Gandhi
Defeat for Li Ping but of the seeded players he was the only one to fall.
Notably, the host nation’s Quadri Aruna, the top seed, beat 42 year old colleague Kazeem Nasiru (11-2, 11-6, 12-10, 11-9); Egypt’s Omar Assar, the no.2 seed, accounted for Russia’s Vasilij Filatov (11-3, 11-4, 11-5, 11-9), whilst Finland’s Benedek Olah, the no.4 seed and defending champion, overcame Frenchman, Gregoire Jean (11-8, 11-7, 9-11, 11-6, 10-12, 12-10).