LAGOS – Fresh from winning a sixth consecutive ITTF Africa Cup women’s singles title and a seventh overall, Africa’s top-ranked female table tennis player Dina Meshref has given some insight into her vice-like grip on the women’s game in Africa.
The 25-year-old Egyptian swept compatriot and cousin Yousra Helmy 4-0 (11-9, 11-9, 11-1, 11-8) to claim the title on Monday inside the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
And speaking after her victory in the final, Meshref who disputed that she’d had it easy at the tournament revealed that the roots of her dominance on the continent was planted over a decade ago when she spent time honing her skills in China and competing against the very best players at international training camps.
“To be honest, it [the 2019 ITTF Africa Cup] wasn’t that easy; it was tough, but since I was 14 or 15 I was practicing in China and also going to international training camps. I guess that’s why [I’ve been so dominant] because I wanted to compete against the top players so maybe that’s why my level has improved.
“I was just keen to practice internationally in China or Asia with the best players in the world, to be able to compete well against them so I guess that has prepared me well to compete in Africa.”
Speaking about the final, Meshref said the match was a lot tougher than the 4-0 scoreline over Helmy suggested with her opponents pushing her closely in the first two sets as well as the last set.
“Well actually, it [the final] wasn’t that easy. The first two sets were very, very close, 11-9, 11-9 and the last set was also very close 11-8, I just needed to concentrate and focus very well especially at the end of every set,” Meshref said.
Meshref’s victory in the 2019 ITTF Africa Cup means a seventh sojourn to the 2019 ITTF Table Tennis World Cup in Chengdu, China which serves off in October where she has failed to make the main draw in six previous appearances.
But she believes that the experience she has garnered from previous appearances coupled with a good preparation can help her post better performances this time around.
“I’ll try my best to prepare very, very well before that tournament,” Meshref said. “I’ve been to the world cup for six times, so I have a bit of experience and I hope that this time I can make use of that experience be well prepared and hopefully make a good result there.”
With the ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open serving off on Wednesday 7th August, Meshref says she hopes to recover well from her exertions in the past week which also saw her win gold in the African Club Championships in order to perform well at the Lagos Open.
“Actually I’m a bit exhausted so I just hope that I can recover well after this competition and also we had the Africa Club Competition so I just need to rest well and recover so I can be able to, perform well at the Lagos Open, I hope to try my best to perform well.”
And speaking on the African Games which starts on the 19th of August, Meshref who won gold in the women’s singles in the 2015 edition in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo said Egypt have been preparing well for the tennis event and expressed hope of successfully defending her crown and Egypt winning the team event at the games which also doubles as qualifiers for the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo.
“Hopefully, we can win the team’s event, and qualify to Tokyo 2020, we’ve been preparing very well for that match and I hope that we can be able to win and qualify to Tokyo, and also I hope I can win the singles event,” she said.