By Olalekan Okusan
On a day when the majority of top players were shown the exit in the third round of qualification at the ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open, Quadri Aruna ensured his stay in the race for a place in the main draw.
From the start of the encounter, it was as if Aruna did not come to the party as Olah, who was crowned the 2016 Nigeria Open champion, dominated the first three games and, in less than 30 minutes, took a 3-0 (7-11, 8-11, 12-10) lead over Africa’s highest ranked player (Aruna currently sits at 18th in the world standings).
However, Aruna’s never-say-die attitude changed the tone of the tie in the fourth game when the 31-year-old began to overwhelm his opponent with three successive wins (11-6, 11-7, 11-6) to set a deciding encounter in the seventh game.
From the start of the seventh game, Aruna took the lead by a 4-2 margin, but Olah restored parity at 4-4 and even poked himself in front at 4-5. It was at that point that Aruna’s superb forehand shots started confusing the Finnish star, as the Nigerian won the next three points to take a 7-4 lead.
The pendulum would not stop swinging there.
In a game of do or die, Olah powered his way back to a 7-8 advantage, before Aruna completed one last surge to put the game beyond his opponent at 11-8 to receive a standing ovation from the German fans at the GETEC Arena in Magdeburg.
Unlike Quadri, who is just one match away from securing his place in the main draw, Olajide Omotayo was shown the exit after losing 4-0 in the second preliminary round against Korea Republic’s Cho Seungmin.
Later today, Aruna will confront Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek in the fourth preliminary round; meanwhile Egypt’s Omar Assar will battle it out with Croatia’s Andrej Gacina for a place in the main draw of the men’s singles competition.
The 2019 ITTF Africa Cup Champion sealed a clinical 4-1 (11-6, 9-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-4) victory over China’s Xiang Peng.