by Kabir Nagpal
Quadri Aruna starts his quest on the third day of action, Friday 9th August, the day that marks his 31st birthday; he will want to make sure that this weekend he enjoys more than just one celebration!
At the Africa Cup, Quadri Aruna experienced a real battle on his way to the last four, at the quarter-final stage against Senegal’s Ibrahima Diaw he needed the full seven games to ensure victory, only emerging successful by the minimal two point margin in the decider (9-11, 11-4, 11-3, 7-11, 11-2, 7-11, 12-10).
The name of Ibrahima Diaw also appears on the entry list for the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open, the two could well experience another epic battle but first of all the 27 year old, who has honed his skills in France, must qualify. Results achieved this year, notably reaching the third round in Thailand, suggests that the initial target will be achieved.
The run of events at the Africa Cup meant that Quadri Aruna missed the early present of a ticket to the 2019 ITTF Men’s World Cup in Chengdu, China. Quadri will be the man to beat in Lagos; now maybe the perfect time for the Nigerian to use this second chance for attaining gold.
It will not be an easy task by any means as there is a wealth of talent on show and there are players on duty who are hungry for success. Belgium’s Cédric Nuytinck and Robert Devos have never won a men’s singles title on either the ITTF World Tour or at an ITTF Challenge Series tournament. It is the same for Slovenia’s Bojan Tokic and Thailand’s Supanut Wisumaythangkoon as it for Austria’s Robert Gardos. He has been trying for over 20 years!
Similarly, Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro and Germany’s Bastian Steger will be seeking to add to previous success. Both have won Challenge tournaments, Thiago Monteiro succeeded in 2015 in Santiago, Bastian Steger in 2017 in Slovenia. Moreover, not having been selected for the Brazilian team at the current Pan America Games, Thiago Monteiro is a man with a point to prove.
Meshref looking to make it two
In the women’s singles, Egypt’s Dina Meshref will be in high spirits playing in Lagos. The African Cup win earlier over the weekend means she is assured of a spot in the 2019 Uncle Pop ITTF Women’s World Cup, for whom this is a sixth consecutive World Cup tournament.
“I feel very happy to have defended my title and qualified for the Women’s World Cup. I really hope I can represent Africa in the best possible way.” Dina Meshref
A second title in as many weeks will go a long way in boosting the ranking for the world no.49. Standing in her path will be the likes of Slovakian Barbora Balazova, who is expected to stand true to her no.1 seeding. Balazova reached the semi-finals at the 2019 Serbia Open in Belgrade and will be hoping to go two steps further this time.
Furthermore, note the Russian challenge, the defensive skills of Polina Mikhailova, the fast attacking attributes of Yana Noskova are present. Significantly Polina Mikhailova won in 2012 in Belarus.
However, could the biggest threat come from Portugal? The name of Shao Jieni appears on the entry list. She won in Lagos in both 2015 and 2016, can she make it three?
Who will end up lifting the trophy in Lagos? Find out
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