Assar and Meshref win 2019 ITTF Africa Cup

Anulika Menanya, Lagos

Omar Assar and Dina Meshref

Egyptians, Omar Assar and Dina Meshref are champions of Africa after they both won the men’s and women’s final of the 2019 ITTF Africa Cup in Lagos.

Omar left it late to beat countryman Ahmed Saleh (10-12, 11-3, 11-6, 12-14, 11-3, 9-11, 11-3) in a tense final to reclaim the continental title from Nigeria’s Aruna Quadri.

Both players were tied 2 all at the end the fourth set before Saleh gave in to his nerves in the fifth and eventually lost the set 11-3. With support from the Lagos fans, Saleh made up for the loss in the previous set winning the sixth 11-9.

Assar had to wait till the seventh set to beat his opponent, 11-3 with final scores 4-3.

After the victory, the 28-year old said he did not expect to win in Lagos knowing that pre-tournament favourites, Quadri, who he beat in the semi-finals was in form.

“I’m very happy to perform in Lagos and it was not my expectations at all to win the title. Actually Quadri was much favourite than me when I came here, he was in such a good form, he played amazing all the way and he beat a very strong player in the quarterfinal.  I also had a very tough draw and I started with a knee injury in the first match, I’m very happy that I could come over and perform very well in Lagos”.

He said the game against Saleh, a three time African champion, was a very tough one especially because he is more experienced.

“it’s always tough to play your teammate, we grew up together, he knows me very well, he is 11 years older and much more experience. Of course this match has a very special feeling but all in all I was very happy to see him play the way he did. It is very good that Egyptian table tennis has reached such a high level”.

The 58th ranked Omar will not feature in the ITTF Nigerian Open Seamaster Challenge Plus which begins on Wednesday, August 7, and he says he wants to take a break and prepare for the All Africa Games in Morrocco.

He said “I cannot play three tournaments together in such a high level; I’d like to take a break and to start preparing for the Africa games”.

Quadri got the bronze medal of the tournament after he beat Algeria’s Khedouri Sami, 3-0 (11-6, 12-10, 11-5) in the third place game.

Africa’s best female player, Meshref had an easy ride to retain the African title after defeating compatriot, Helmy Yousra in four sets. Meshref who has held the title for two years now out did Yousra 4-0 (11-9, 11-9, 11-1,11-8) to make it an African treble.

Nigeria’s Offiong Edem, claimed the bronze in the women’s singles event beating Tunisian Garci Fadwa 3-2 in a keenly contested game.

World Cup Qualification
The result means Omar and Meshref will represent the continent at the 2019 Table Tennis World Cup in Chengdu, China from 29 November to 1 December and also pocket the 5,000 US dollars prize money.

Quadri despite missing out on the first place, he could still qualify for the World Cup as a Wild card.

The silver medallists got 2,500 US Dollars; the bronze medallists got 1,500 US dollars while the fourth placed players went away with 1,000 US dollars.

Classification games
Nigeria’s Funke Oshonaike lost the 5-6th postiton 1-3 ( 10-12, 12-10, 7-11, 5-11) to Sarah Hanffou of Cameroon.

In the 7-8th position game, Ojomu Ajoke beat compatriot Bello Fatimo 3-2 (11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 10-12, 6-11). For the 9-10th position, Egypt’s Farah Abdelaziz came out victorious against Algeria’s Katia Kessaci 3-1 (8-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-1) while the battle for the 11th place went to South Africa’s Danisha Patel over her compatriot, Simeen Mookrey 3-0 (12-10, 11-5, 11-6).

The last classification bout between Algeria’s Lynda Loghraibi and Milicent Ankude of Ghana ended 3-0 ( 11-3, 11-5, 11-2) in favour of the Algerian.

In the men’s event, Nigeria’s Bode Abiodun beat Diaw Ibrahima of Senegal 3-2 (15-13, 11-9, 11-8, 10-12, 12-14) in the 5-6th place game.

Olajide omotayo did not have to lift a finger to win the 6-7th position game after his opponent; Congo’s Saheed Idowu failed to show up.

Nigeria’s Taiwo Mati lost 0-3 (10-12, 5-11, 4-11) to Tunisian Adam Hmam in the 9-10thplace match.

Emmanuel Asante of Ghana lost 0-3 to Gideon Kassa of Cote d’Ivoire. Togo’s Kossi Akakpo was the 3-1 winner in the 13-14th place match against Rwanda’s Eric Niyonizigiye and Congo’s Christ Bienatiki walked over Nigeria’s Segun Toriola in the 15-16th match.