08 Feb 2018

A tough test on the morning of Thursday 8th February for Meissa Alhafi and Zena Asaad in the Junior Girls’ Team event at the 2018 Oman Junior and Cadet Open in Muscat; in fact it could not have been more difficult. Any outfit in the age group from any country in the world would have experienced problems.

The 17 year Syrian teenagers, born two days apart in April 2000, faced the Chinese combination of Qian Tianyi, Kuia Man and Zhang Binyue.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Predictably, a three matches to nil defeat was the outcome but credit must go to the Syrian duo who gave one hundred per cent in support of the cause.

Zhang Binyue beat Meissa Alhafi (11-2, 11-3, 11-8), Qian Tianyi accounted for Zena Asaad (11-1, 11-6, 11-2) before partnering Guo Yuhan to doubles success (11-3, 11-5, 11-5).

“It’s just amazing to be able to play against them; it is so difficult, so hard. It’s China, they are the World champions, they are best. Everything they do is to the highest standard, you cannot really say that there is one thing that is more difficult than another; services are hard to read and they always put the ball on the table. We are really pleased to have played against them.” Meissa Alhafi

Defeat but it was broad smiles from both, Meissa Alhafi, clearly the team leader, a delightful outgoing personality, her English fluent.

“They are from a country that has won World Championships; we’ve never done anything like that.” Zena Asaad

Now, the fact that they smile when talking; surely they are the faces to promote table tennis for girls in a war torn country, they are both from Lattakia, Syria’s principal port. They attend the same school, the same everything, they are not just partners in the table tennis arena; they are the very best of friends.

“Lattakia is calm and peaceful, there some cities we there are problems but not where we live. We practise every day except Tuesday and Friday.” Meissa Alhafi

Watching them play against the Chinese teenagers they were competing against the high excellence and can only learn from the experience. Furthermore, as with everyone, they have been made most welcome guests in Muscat.

“We are really pleased to be here, everybody in Oman has been so kind and as made us welcome.”Zena Assad

The match over again China, it was good to see that the girls did not head for the exit door; they stayed to support the Cadet Boys’ Teams who were in quarter-final action.

They sat in the VIP seats, quite right, that’s what they are very important people; the new image of Syria

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World Junior Circuit 2018 Oman Junior & Cadet Open Zeina Asaad Meissa Alhafi

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