Tuesday, February 9, 2016 10:59 pm
Africa’s best table tennis players, Egypt’s Omar Assar and Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri are top seeds at this month’s ITTF Africa Top 16 holding in Khartoum, Sudan.
In the seeding released by the Africa Table Tennis Federation (ATTF), Assar, who is the highest raked African player in the World is seeded number one and Quadri who recently moved to 37 from 48 in the world is seeded number two.
Assar’s compatriot, El-Sayed Lashin is seeded number three while Congo Brazzaville’s Saheed Idowu is number four.
The continent’s most decorated table tennis athlete, Nigeria’s Segun Toriola is seeded number five and the France-based star is aiming for his seventh Olympics appearance at the Olympics Qualifying Tournament.
In 2015, Assar claimed three continental titles with two of them at the expense of Quadri. Like Assar, Dina Meshref who is the number one seed in the women event.
The Egyptian duo started 2015 in the best possible manner by winning the respective Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events at the ITTF-African Senior Championships on home soil in Cairo.
Later in July they emerged successful at the ITTF-Africa Senior Cup in Yaoundé, and in September, they completed the trilogy of titles at the African Games in Congo Brazzaville.
Success in Yaoundé meant that Assar and Meshref qualified to compete in their respective Men’s and Women’s World Cup competitions; where they made considerable impact.
Both negotiated the initial phase to book first round places and in the opening round, although it was defeat, illustrious opposition was tested.
In the Swedish town of Halmstad at the Liebherr Men’s World Cup, Omar Assar was the only player to extract a single game from Ma Long; in Sendai Dina Meshref became the first player from Africa to negotiate the opening phase of the Women’s World Cup and extended the home town girl, Ai Fukuhara, to five games before experiencing defeat.
However, in their quest to gain qualification for the prestigious World Cup events, both may well face strong opposition from the in-form players in 2016.
The efforts of Nigeria’s Quadri at the Liebherr Men’s World Cup when he advanced to the quarter-finals are now part of table tennis folklore and let us not forget Egypt’s Nadeen El-Dawlatly.
At the ITTF World Nigeria Open, El-Dawlatly won the Women’s Singles title. She is the only African player ever to win an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles title.
Efforts of the past are resigned to history, and now all eyes focus on Khartoum.
The top 16 men and top 16 women on the ATTF Ranking List, with the proviso of a maximum two players in each event from any one national association, alongside one male and one female player from the host association, formed the invitation list.