by Ian Marshall, Editor
Notably, on Sunday 11th August, Quadri Aruna retained his men’s singles title at the 2019 ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open, having the previous week experienced a semi-final defeat at the hands of Omar Assar at the ITTF-Africa Cup.
Hard earned success, Omar Assar progressed to secure the title at the final expense of evergreen colleague, Ahmed Ali Saleh.
Eventually both Quadri Aruna and Omar Assar qualified the Chengdu Airlines 2019 Men’s World Cup; performances as status suggested. Omar Assar finished in third place in his group behind Korea Republic’s Lee Sangsu and Kanak Jha of the United States; Quadri Aruna was beaten in the opening round by Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto.
Climbed the rankings
Perhaps there were no great wins that uprooted trees but there was meaningful progress on the world rankings.
On the January listings Omar Assar was named at no.47, when the December order of merit was announced he occupied the no.28 spot; likewise in the same period Quadri Aruna moved from no.26 to no.20, reaching a high for the year of no.19 in September and October.
Similarly, in the same timespan on the women’s rankings, Dina Meshref advanced from no.47 to no.31, the highest listing of her career and one which gives her the accolade of being Africa’s most successful player ever.
She continued being the dominant player, she won the ITTF-Africa Cup title and thus qualified for the Uncle Pop 2019 Women’s World Cup, the seventh time she has reserved her place in the prestigious annual tournament. Significantly, for the fourth time she progressed to the main draw, a feat no other African has ever achieved.
Additionally at the Africa Games in Rabat she led Egypt to team success prior to claiming women’s singles gold.
However, in that tournament there was one of the three bonuses for Africa. After ending the hopes of the now 45 year old colleague Segun Toriola, Olajide Omotayo beat Quadri Aruna in the final to seal the title; furthermore Quadri Aruna was in form, in the penultimate round he had beaten Omar Assar.
A plus for Nigeria, there was also a plus for Senegal. No title but in good company, on the ITTF Challenge Series, Ibrahima Diaw reached the third round of the men’s singles event in Thailand, the semi-finals in Indonesia.
Moreover, in June he re-entered the world rankings at no.484, in December he was named at no.82; that’s progress and it somewhat overshadowed Olajide Omotayo who in the 12 month period moved from no.146 to no.85. Thus at the end of the year Africa had four players ranked in the men’s top 100 names.
Success but in terms of titles won, no African could match Hana Goda. At the ITTF-African Junior and Cadet Championships she won the cadet girls’ singles title, she did the same at the Egypt Junior and Cadet Open before ending the year on the highest possible note.
At the Portugal Junior and Cadet Open in November, she completed the double. She won both the junior girls’ and cadet girls’ singles titles.
Additionally at the 2019 World Cadet Challenge in Wladyslawowo she reached the semi-final stage, losing to the eventual champion, Japan’s Kaho Akae. It was a quite remarkable performance, at the time Kaho Akae was 15 years old, Hana Goda born on Wednesday 12th December 2007, was only 11 years of age; in that part of life, four years is a major gap.
Progress on the world rankings for her senior African colleagues; it was the same for Hana Goda. On the under 15 girls’ world rankings, in January she was named at no.42, in December she appeared most creditably in the no.4 spot.
Setting new standards and in 2020 could Hana Goda set even higher standards?
Can she set unprecedented standards? Can she top the under 15 girls’ global order? Can she become the first African to head a world rankings? Most certainly it is not dreamland, it is not out of the question, it is more than possible! Keep tuned.