LAGOS – Africa’s and Nigeria’s top-ranked table tennis player Aruna Quadri has described his loss in the semifinal of the 2019 ITTF Africa Cup in Lagos to long-time rival and eventual champion Omar Assar as “difficult”.
Egyptian Assar, the number 3 seed defied a very vocal home support at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos to dispatch top-seed Quadri 4-1 (11-6, 11-8,8-11, 11-3) to progress to the final where he triumphed over compatriot Ahmed Saleh on Monday.
Quadri and Assar have enjoyed a long-running rivalry which has spanned a decade and are very familiar with each other’s game with Assar leading their head-to-head 8-5 prior to Monday’s encounter.
And speaking after his loss to the Egyptian, Quadri who later beat Algeria’s Sami Kherouf to win bronze, said such his match against Assar was always going to be decided by slim margins and that ultimately it was Assar who grabbed his “opportunity” and “played much better from the beginning” racing into a two-set lead which Quadri found impossible to bridge.
“It was a very difficult match for me,” Quadri told busybuddiesng.com following his semifinal loss to Assar. “We recognise ourselves very well and it was like whoever that had the opportunity really need[ed] to take it. So, I think he had the opportunity earlier with the 2-0 lead and he took advantage of that.
“I think he also played much more better than me from the beginning to the end. I didn’t get on early so he really took that advantage. It’s gone already, so we are hoping for the best in the future.”
Quadri’s loss also meant he missed out on the chance to vie for a place at the 2019 Table Tennis World Cup in Chengdu, China which is reserved for the winner of the Africa Cup.
And playing against a distinctly uninterested Kherouf in the bronze medal match, Quadri who still has the possibility of qualifying for the World Cup through the world rankings or via a wild card, said while his opponent might have wanted to be somewhere else, he was motivated to win to give himself every chance of making the World Cup which serves off in October.
“I think third-place for both player; it’s either one wants to play the other doesn’t want to play. So, I think he didn’t want to play so he was not really playing on top of his game probably he was tired or something. But of course, for me, I really wanted to win because I know if I am number three, it is very possible to qualify for the World Cup,” Quadri said.
It has been a hectic few days for the Portugal-based player with the Africa Cup coming on the heels of the African Club Championships where Quadri won gold as part of Egypt’s ENPPI team.
Next up for the world number 22 is the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open, Lagos, where he is the defending Men’s singles champion having defeated Frenchman Antoine Hachard in last year’s final.
With the looming prospect of pitting his wits against elite players from all over the world when the tournament serves off on Wednesday, 7th August, at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Quadri says he isn’t intimidated by the calibre of players who would be competing at the tournament and says he expects “home advantage” to help spur the into the Nigerian contingent to great feats.
“I’m not intimidated actually, it has always been the same. You have several foreigners coming in, I know almost all of them and in one way or the other, I have played almost all of them. So, it is 50-50, but of course, we are playing at home and we should be able to use some kind of home advantage against them.”