By Godwin Aikigbe
Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri said his next target is the All African Games title as he expressed delight in winning 2018 ITTF African Championships Men’s Singles title in Mauritius on Sunday.
The world number 18 spoke after he defeated Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh (11-7, 6-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-1) to win the title for the first time.
“I am so happy that I was able to win this title for the first time having come close in 2016. My next target is the All African Games title because the likes of Segun Toriola and Omar Assar have won this and I am hoping that I can win this as well. I must express my appreciation to the Mauritians for their support; their enormous support kept me going throughout the competition. It is great again winning another title 28 days after winning the ITTF Challenge Seamaster Nigeria Open in Lagos,” Quadri was quoted as saying by the tournament’s official website.
Winner one month ago on home soil when in Lagos, Quadri climbed one step higher than two years ago in Agadir, when he had been the runner up, his one and only prior appearance in the final.
Unbeaten throughout the Men’s Team event, the guiding hand in Nigeria’s gold medal success, Quadri Aruna proved a step ahead of the field.
On the concluding day of play, at the semi-final stage he beat colleague Olajide Omotayo (11-9, 11-6, 11-5, 11-3), prior to securing the title at the final expense of Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh (11-7, 6-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-1). In the counterpart semi-final, in the battle of the venerable veterans, Ahmed Ali Saleh who will celebrate his 39th birthday next month accounted for Nigeria’s 44 year old Segun Toriola (8-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-9).
A second title within a month for Quadri Aruna, for Nigeria in Men’s Singles events at the African Championships, it was their ninth since they won for the first time in 1985 in Alexandria. On that occasion, at the final hurdle Atanda Musa, a style of play exactly that of Quadri Aruna, beat compatriot, Yome Bankole.
However, for Nigeria it was the first time they had won the event for well over a decade; the last time was in 2002 in Bizerte when Segun Toriola beat colleague Monday Merotohun to claim the title. Notably it was a year when Segun Toriola was very much at the peak of his powers; also he won the Men’s Singles title at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, the first time table tennis had been included in the multi-sport event.
Defeat for Ahmed Ali Saleh but he still remains the most successful of all, overall he has now appeared in five African Championships Men’s Singles finals and is the only player to have won the title three times.
He won in 2000 in Addis Ababa, in 2007 in Brazzaville and in 2010 in Yaoundé; in 2015 in Cairo, he was the runner up, it was the same fate in 2018 in Port Louis, the honours belonged to Quadri Aruna, the top seeded position fully justified.