25 Feb 2020

Commencing in 2014 in Lagos, in six consecutive tournaments they had met; honours shared, three wins each; the evidence was clear that when they met for a seventh time the decision would be on the proverbial knife-edge.

It proved to be the conclusion; on the early evening of Tuesday 25th February in the men’s semi-final at the 2020 ITTF-Africa Top 16 Cup in Tunis, Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna, the top seed, beat Egypt’s Omar Assar, the no.4 seed, by very narrowest of margins in the deciding game (5-11, 6-11, 11-4, 14-12, 7-11, 11-5, 12-10).

by Ian Marshall, Editor

The tournament played on a similar formula each year but in even numbered years known as the Africa Top 16, in odd numbered years, the Africa Cup, after overcoming his erstwhile rival in 2016 in Yaoundé, Omar Assar had prevailed on the two most recent meetings in 2018 in Nairobi and last year in Lagos.

Conversely, Quadri Aruna had succeeded in Lagos in 2014, in Khartoum in 2016 and in 2017 in Agadir; the one most salient factor being that whoever prevailed won the tournament and progressed to gain a place in the Men’s World.

Left to the end

Furthermore, Quadri Aruna underlined one most important factor in a sporting contest; the best time to be ahead is at the end of the contest!

In fact, overall, he was never ahead in the contest until he held match point in the deciding seventh game! He lost the opening two games, before winning the third and then in the fourth after hold game point at 10-9, then saved two game points before securing victory.

Omar Assar beaten by Quadri Aruna after holding two match points (Photo: Moez Fellah)


Later, in the decisive seventh games, at the change of ends, Omar Assar led 5-2, Quadri Aruna levelled at 7-all but down 8-10 faced two match points. He saved both and then won the next, he elected for “time out” at 11-10 ahead with Omar Assar having the service.  Somewhat differently, in the fourth game, having led 8-5, the advantage then being reduced to one point 8-7, Omar Assar called for the break, the outcome did not accrue in his favour. The decision made by Omar Assar bore fruit.

Calm and composes

Throughout the contest for Omar Assar the policy was to nullify the long powerful Quadri Aruna forehand; the problem for any player is that is easier said than done.

The Egyptian, true to his character, greeted success with a guttural cry, total commitment but it was not his day; if there was fortune in the count of the few nets and edges, things did not go his way.

Conversely for Quadri Aruna, there was not a sound, cool, calm and collected from start to finish, the focus never wandered, a place in the final was secured.

2020 ITTF-Africa Top 16 Cup Quadri Aruna Omar Assar

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Day 3 - 2020 ITTF Africa Top 16 Cup