Omotayo’s Historic Run Ends As Compatriot Aruna Takes Centre Stage

Nigeria’s Olajide Omotayo’s history-making run at the World Table Tennis (WTT) Middle East Hub has ended in the second stage of the preliminary round of the tournament holding in Doha, Qatar.

The $200,000 prize-money tournament is the first official WTT event of 2021 with 298 players from 66 countries taking part.

Omotayo’s exit comes just as compatriot and Africa’s highest-ranked player Quadri Aruna is set to begin his challenge in the main draw of the men’s singles.

Omotayo, the reigning African Games men’s singles champion, on Sunday, became the first African player to win a match at the WTT tournament after he dispatched Kazakhstan’s Alan Kurmangaliyev in the first stage of the preliminary round after players from Egypt and Algeria tasting defeats in all their matches.

Pitched against the best player in the German Bundesliga, Sweden’s Anton Kallberg, the 2019 African Games champion showed class against his opponent and despite going 2-0 (11-8, 11-3) down in the tie, Omotayo fought back with 11-9, 11-7 wins to even the match at 2-2.

The Nigerian led 7-5 in the deciding game but failed to win a single point thereafter surrendering the match to his European counterpart 11-7 to exit the competition at the preliminary round.

“It was not easy after a year of not playing any official match but I am happy with my performance,” Omotayo said.

“All I need to do now is to concentrate on what I did not do right and try to improve that aspect. With this tournament, I gained more confidence going into the next tournament. I hope to watch more matches of top players in readiness for another tournament later this week in Doha,” Omotayo said.

Egyptian pair Omar Assar and Ahmed Saleh were also not lucky in their matches as they fell at the same stage to European counterparts.

2019 Nigeria Open revelation Senegal’s Ibrahima Diaw was the only African to make the third stage of the preliminary round after a convincing 3-0 (11-8, 11-5, 11-6) win over Romania’s Sipos Rares.

And to be sure of competing alongside Aruna in the main draw, Diaw will have to overcome Russia’s Kirill Skachkov on Tuesday, March 2.

Aruna who is the only ranked African in the top 20 seeded players is shaping up for the main draw expected to kick off on Wednesday, 3 March.