28 Aug 2019

Four times the winner commencing in 1995 in Harare, Segun Toriola, who next month will celebrate his 45th birthday, alongside colleague Olajide Omotayo, at 24 years of age two decades his junior, flew the flag for Nigeria at the 2019 African Games in the Moroccan city of Rabat on Wednesday 28th August.

Contrary to expectations both booked men’s singles semi-final places, as did their compatriot Quadri Aruna; of the Egyptian contingent only Omar Assar remains to fight the cause.

by Ian Marshall, Editor (Interviews by Olalekan Okusan)

Omotayo Olajide caused the biggest upset, after beating South Africa’s Kurt Lingeveldt (11-4, 11-7, 11-9, 12-10), he accounted for Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh, the no.2 seed (11-7, 10-12, 10-12, 11-6, 11-7, 7-11, 11-6), another player of venerable years but very much junior to Segun Toriola. In November he will celebrate his 40th birthday.

“I am so excited that in my first African Games I made it to the semi-final. I knew that it was going to be a tough match against one of the most experienced African players. I just ensured that I did not get angry on table because he did everything to upset me but I was determined. I was calm and I am happy that this is a good outing for me in the singles.” Olajide Omotayo

More dramatic

A dramatic win for Omotayo Olajide, life was even more dramatic for Segun Toriola. Like Olajide Omatayo he caused Egypt heartaches. Following success in opposition to Mahmoud Helmy (11-5, 11-6, 11-6, 11-9), he ended the hopes of Khalid Assar by the very narrowest of decisions (11-6, 11-7, 9-11, 9-11, 11-5, 14-16, 13-11).

“I am very happy because I knew it was going to be a very difficult match. I made a lot of mistakes playing to his backhand and I was also in a hurry to attack; this cost me a lot of points. It was hard for him to return my service and this really helped me a lot. I am so happy that we have three Nigerians in the semi-finals” Segun Toriola

Furthermore, one of them will be in the final; they meet in the penultimate round. In the opposite half of the draw, as predicted, Quadri Aruna and Omar Assar progressed in some style.

Quadri Aruna accounted for Tunisia’s Adam Hmam (11-6, 11-1, 8-11, 11-4, 11-9) and Congo Brazzaville’s Saheed Idowu (11-5, 17-15, 11-6, 11-2); similarly Omar Assar beat the host nation’s Mounaim Tirselt, who withdrew injured after the second game (11-7, 12-10, 11-0, 11-0), followed by success when facing Senegal’s Ibrahima Diaw (11-5, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9).

Egypt guaranteed final place

Nigeria guaranteed a place in the men’s singles semi-finals; in the counterpart women’s singles event; that honour belongs to Egypt.

Dina Meshref, the top seed, asserted her authority on proceedings; she accounted for Tunisia’s Safa Saidani (7-11, 11-4, 11-2, 11-4, 11-6) and Algeria’s Lynda Loghraibi (11-3, 11-9, 11-4, 11-4); she now faces Farah Abdel-Aziz in the penultimate round, a young lady very much in form.

After beating Widad Nouari, like Lynda Loghraibi from Algeria (11-8, 11-2, 11-6, 11-6), she ended the hopes of Nigeria’s Olufunke Oshonaike, the no.3 seed (11-4, 11-6, 5-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8).

Sarah Hanffou lays down the law

A surprise semi-finalist, it was the same in the opposite half of the draw; the player to raise the eyebrows being Cameroon’s Parisian lawyer Sarah Hanffou. Following success in opposition to Nigeria’s Cecilia Akpan (8-11, 8-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 14-12, 11-8), she ended the hopes of Egypt’s Yousra Helmy, the no.4 seed (12-10, 15-13, 12-10, 10-12,11-13, 5-11, 11-5).

In the semi-final round, Sarah Hanffou meets Nigeria’s Offiong Edem, the no.2 seed. She claimed her last four place courtesy of success against Algeria’s Katia Kessaci 911-6, 11-3, 11-7, 11-4) and Egypt’s Reem El-Eraky (11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-7).

Play in Rabat concludes on Thursday 29th August.

2019 African Games Segun TORIOLA Olajide Omotayo

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Day 9 - 2019 African Games