by Simon Daish
Starting his men’s singles campaign with a fine 4-3 victory over China’s Ma Te (11-8, 8-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-7); in round two Quadri Aruna went on to claim a major scalp, by the same score-line eliminating seventh seed Wong Chun Ting (11-9, 11-9, 4-11, 3-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-5).
Aruna’s reward was a quarter-final meeting with no.4 seed Jun Mizutani, a player he met at the 2017 Men’s World Cup in Liège where he suffered a straight games defeat.
Heading into the match as the favourite, it was Mizutani who made the stronger start in Panagyurishte, picking up two of the opening three games to establish an early advantage.
However, Aruna’s standout abilities include his strong will and never say die attitude, traits we saw in game four as the African athlete saved two game points to level the scores at 2-2. But, it was game five that really stole the show as Aruna fought back from 4-9 down, winning seven points in a row to move ahead.
With momentum against him, Mizutani did well to compose himself in game six and deservedly went on to force a seventh and deciding game.
Leading at the halfway point in the game, Aruna then gained a commanding 9-6 lead only for Mizutani to claim the following four points to hold match point. Aruna did well to put the pressure behind him, levelling the scores at 10-10, he then saved another match point opportunity soon after to keep his chances afloat. Then it was the Nigerian’s turn to hold match point and without hesitation he grabbed it with open arms to earn another career highlight victory (8-11, 11-9, 6-11, 12-10, 11-9, 4-11, 13-11).
Scenes of emotional celebration followed with Aruna dropping his racquet fist pumping the air and falling to his knees before a respectful shake of the hand with the defeated Mizutani. Victory for Aruna sees him move through to his second-ever Bulgaria Open semi-final having achieved the same feat in 2017.
Another statement win for Quadri Aruna – can he go all the way in Panagyurishte?