Top seeds in their respective Women’s & Men’s Singles events, Dina MESHREF (EGY) and Quadri ARUNA (NGR) has met all expectations as they emerged victorious in Port Louis, Mauritius at the 2018 ITTF-African Championships that ran from 3rd to 9th September 2018 to be crowned African Champions.
ARUNA, the Nigerian superstar, has been incredibly successful in his career and is recognized as one of the top players from Africa. It thus comes as a surprise that his victory in Mauritius was the first time he has won the coveted African Championship crown. Having lost the final two years prior, ARUNA made no mistakes as he faced Ahmed SALEH for gold, crushing his opponent in 5 games (11-7, 6-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-1). Such was the form that he was in, the Men’s Singles Champion did not lose a game prior to the final, becoming the first Nigerian to win the event since 2002.
Having achieved his goal, ARUNA explained: “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 for Mauritians for their support. It was because of their enormous support that kept me throughout the competition. It is great again winning another title 28 days after winning the ITTF Challenge Seamaster Nigeria Open in Lagos.”
His appetite for victory was evident from the start as he led the Nigerian team to their first Men’s Team Gold since 2008, ending a 10 years draught and booking the team a place in the 2019 Team World Cup as African Champions.
Two Golds for ARUNA but yet he was not the most successful individual in Port Louis. That honor goes to MESHREF. Having won the Women’s Team title and the Mixed Doubles title with SALEH, she entered the Women’s Singles Final high on confidence. Taking on colleague Reem EL-ERAKY, MESHREF displayed her prowess on the table with a convincing 4-0 (11-5, 11-8, 11-6, 13-11) victory. A second African Championship title won in three final appearances after missing out on it in 2016. Still only 24 years of age, she could yet add to her title haul.
Despite reclaiming her title, MESHREF paid tribute to her opponents, claiming: “I am happy reclaiming my title again after losing it in 2016 but I must also admit that it was not easy winning it because there are lots of good players particularly the Nigerians. The atmosphere in Mauritius was good for me and I enjoyed every day I spent in the country.”
To add to the already impressive gold tally for Egypt in Mauritius, the Men’s and Women’s Doubles title was contested in an all Egyptian final. Youssef ABEL-AZIZ and Khalid ASSAR overcame the more experienced pair of Mohamed EL-BEIALI and SALEH 4-0 (11-5, 11-9, 11-9, 11-2) to win the Men’s Doubles title. Meanwhile, EL-ERAKY partnered Farah ABEL-AZIZ to take down Yousra HELMY and MESHREF 4-3 (12-10, 6-11, 11-7, 4-11, 5-11, 12-10, 11-6) in a thrilling encounter to be crowned Women’s Doubles Cham.
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Photo: Rémy Gros