Three African players have continued to do their continent proud with a strong display in the round of 64 at the ongoing ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals Durban 2023. In a remarkable display of talent and determination, Egyptians Dina Meshref and Omar Assar, as well as Nigerian Taiwo Mati have emerged victorious.
Egyptian sensation and World No.28 Dina Meshref demonstrated her skill as she progressed to the round of 32 after defeating Anna Wegrzyn of Poland. Meshref remains determined to make her continent proud with each win.
Reflecting on her progress, she said, “It is an honour to represent Africa at the highest stage of table tennis. Right now, I am just trying to focus on each match, and to fight for each point. My draw was not an easy one, but I am glad that I still managed to come through it by winning my first two singles matches. I hope that I can continue this winning streak. I will continue to give my all and aim for success, not just for myself but for all the aspiring players in Africa who look up to us.”
Omar Assar, the reigning Africa Cup champion from Egypt, has also proved his mettle on the international stage. His performance propelled him to the round of 32 after surviving a late surge from Kazakhstan’s Kirill Gerassimenko to emerge triumphant with a 4-2 win, giving African supporters a reason to cheer.
Assar emphasised the significance of his journey, stating, “Playing table tennis here in South Africa means a lot to me, as I am sure it does to all African players as well. I will continue to prepare for my next match as I normally do and stick to my game plan, including trying to improve on my mistakes too. I will focus on the things I need to correct before the next match so that I can play better. I feel at home being here in Africa and I look forward to having better performances ahead. This tournament is an opportunity for me to show that Africa can compete with the best in the world.”
Africa’s third player to pull through the round of 64 did not have it easy. Nigeria’s rising star, 18-year-old Taiwo Mati, stood on the brink of elimination when he trailed 2-3 to Lam Siu Hang from Hong Kong, China after a strong run of play by his lower ranked opponent, before turning the match around with two consecutive wins that brought him to the round of 32. Bronze medallist of the 2021 ITTF World Youth Championships, Mati has demonstrated grit and resilience in his come-from-behind win, including showcasing a never-say-die spirit that endeared him to the home supporters who cheered him on raucously.
Mati, overwhelmed by his sensational comeback win, said, “Honestly, I do not know what to say, I am just speechless. It is my first time playing in the World Championships and it is like a dream come true for me to qualify for the round of 32. This win is even sweeter for me because it is held in Africa. Throughout the game, I kept telling myself not to give up. Even when I was trailing 2-3, I told myself that I must play better and gain momentum to win. This win means a lot to me. It is definitely the highlight of my career so far, qualifying for the round of 32 in front of so many supporters and fans.”
As the tournament unfolds, Meshref, Assar and Mati will continue to carry the hopes of Africa on their shoulders. Their achievements not only showcase their individual talents but also serve as a testament to the growing strength and depth of table tennis in Africa. They are a source of inspiration for table tennis fans and players all over the continent and all eyes will be on them as they continue to strive to put Africa on the world map.
Follow all the action from the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals Durban 2023 on our website and stay up to date with the full results, draws and match schedules. Obtain free photos for editorial use here. The last few remaining tickets for the event can be purchased on the official ticketing website. Join us in Durban and witness history in the making!