by Ian Marshall, Editor
He finished in first place in his initial stage group ahead of Madagascar’s Jonathan Nativel, Benin’s Monday Olabiyi and Congo Democratic’s Gedeon Kassa, the no.8 seed, a player who experienced a day he will want to forget. He finished in fourth place without a win to his name.
Eight groups in the initial phase, players finishing in first and second positions advanced to a preliminary round; the eight winners from the preliminary round progressed to the second group stage. In the second group stage, those finishing in first and second positions in each group qualify for the men’s singles event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Won in La Marsa
Good form in the group stage, Kerem Ben Yahia beat Congo Brazzaville’s Christ Bienatiki, the no.15 seed (9-11, 11-4, 11-5, 6-11, 11-3, 13-11), the reserve his place in the decisive group phase.
Impressive from Kerem Ben Yahia, he responded and again showed his penchant for playing on home turf. In 2017 won the under 21 men’s singles title at the ITTF African Youth, Junior and Cadet Championships in La Marsa, some 10 miles east of Tunis.
One surprise name with Tokyo 2020 hopes still standing, it was the same for two more. In the preliminary round Ivory Coast’s Kizito Oba Oba, the no.16 seed, accounted for Algeria’s Sami Kherouf, the no.5 seed (11-4, 11-5, 17-15, 6-11, 11-5); balancing the books for Algeria, Larbiah Bouriah, the no.10 seed, upset the order of merit and caused Congo Brazzaville more heartaches. He overcame Saheed Idowu, the no.4 seed (8-11, 13-15, 11-6, 11-4, 11-7, 13-11).
Otherwise the leading names advanced. Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna and Olajide Omotayo, the respective top two seeds, secured second stage group places, as did the next in line Senegal’s Ibrahima Diaw. Likewise, there was progress for Togo’s Kokou Dodji Fanny, the no.6 seed, as there was for Tunisia’s Adam Hmam, the no.7 seed.
Men’s singles: final stage groups
- Group A: Quadri Aruna (Nigeria), Ibrahima Diaw (Senegal), Kokou Dodji Fanny (Togo), Adam Hamam (Tunisia)
- Group B: Olajide Omotayo (Nigeria), Larbi Bouriah (Algeria), Kizito Oba Oba (Ivory Coast), Kerem Ben Yahia (Tunisia)
Ethiopian causes upset
A major surprise in the men’s singles event, in the women’s singles it was the same. Ethiopia’s Marta Gulti, the no.11 seed, the third highest rated player in her group excelled. She beat Algeria’s Katia Kessaci, the no.5 seed (12-10, 6-11, 5-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8) in the concluding match to secure second place behind the Nigeria’s unbeaten Olufunke Oshonaike, the no.3 seed.
Undoubtedly it was a surprise second place in an event where there were four groups in the initial phase, first and second progressing to the final group phase where the winners and runners up in each group gain women’s singles places at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Notably, also there was one unexpected first place; the host nation’s Fadwa Garci beat Algeria’s Lynda Loghraibi (11-9, 11-2, 11-6, 11-3) to conclude her initial phase matches unbeaten. It was the only defeat for Lynda Loghraibi, who thus finished the day in second position and thus through to the final group stage.
Leading names progress
Testing times, in remaining groups, the top two places were as anticipated.
Nigeria’s Offiong Edem, the top seed, finished ahead of Nandeshwaree Jalim from Mauritius, the no.7 seed, as did Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou, the no.2 seed, she ended the day with the host nation’s Sabir Haj Salah, who shared the no.7 seeded spot with Nandeshwaree Jalim, in second place.
Women’s singles: final stage groups
- Group A: Offiong Edem (Nigeria), Fadwa Garci (Tunisia), Marta Gulti (Ethiopia), Habir Haj Salah (Tunisia)
- Group B: Sarah Hanffou (Cameroon), Olufunke Oshonaike (Nigeria), Nandeshwaree Jalim (Mauritius), Lynda Loghraibi (Algeria)
Play in both the men’s singles and women’s singles events will be played in entirety on Friday 28th February. The mixed doubles will be staged on a knock-out basis on Saturday 29th February, one place for Tokyo 2020 being available.