There was heartbreak for Nigerian duo Aruna Quadri and Edem Offiong as both players fell to Egyptian opponents in their respective finals at the 2020 ITTF Africa Top 16 Cup which ended in Tunis on Wednesday.
Aruna who booked his place in the final after a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 win over defending champion Omar Assar couldn’t quite repeat the feat as he was beaten by Assar’s compatriot Ahmed Saleh.
Saleh, whose last major title was in 2012 defeated the number one ranked Aruna Quadri 4-3 (11-6, 5-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-3) to emerge as the new champion.
It was the veteran’s first win over the Nigerian in nine years and stretched his record to 7-6 in their head-to-head.
In the women’s singles, Dina Meshref also took the gold for Egypt as she continued her dominance in Africa with a straightforward 4-1 (11-2, 11-8, 8-11, 11-5, 11-6) over Offiong Edem to retain a title she has now won four times.
Reacting to her triumph, Meshref said: “When I started the competition, I just stayed focused, play my game and not think about how many times I had won it in the past. I must commend Edem because she is an experienced player who played extremely well. She changed tactic every time which sometimes make it difficult to play against her.”
An elated Saleh said of his triumph: “I am very happy because I could not imagine that I will go past Aruna in this tournament. All I did was to focus from the first point to the end.”
The Egyptian veteran added: “I really don’t want to quit at 40 as I want to play until my body cannot do it anymore. I love table tennis and I will continue.”
Quadri had this to say after his loss: “it was an extremely difficult match for me, congratulations to him on the title, I tried my best but today was his.”
In the third-place matches, Egypt’s Omar Assar beat Senegal’s Ibrahima Diaw 3-0 (11-6, 11-8, 12-10) while Cameroun’s Sarah Hanffou defeated Egypt’s Yousra Helmy 3-1 (11-8, 5-11, 11-6, 12-10) to settle for bronze medals.
Saleh and Meshref have now qualified to represent Africa at the ITTF World Cup later in the year.