By Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde
Sports Writer, kick442.com Nigeria
Making his presence felt last year at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments, especially in Indonesia where he reached the penultimate round; on Monday 24th February in Tunis, Senegal’s Ibrahima Diaw once again made his mark.
The no.5 seed, after beating Algeria’s Larbi Bouriah, the no.14 seed, as anticipated (11-4, 11-7, 11-8), the 27 year old overcame Nigeria’s Olajide Omotayo, the no.3 seed (11-7, 5-11, 11-3, 11-8), the quite sensational winner last August of the men’s singles event in Rabat at the African Games.
A successful start to his campaign, Ibrahima Diaw ended the day by prevailing against Congo Democratic’s Gedeon Kassa, the no.11 seed (11-3, 11-2, 11-6), to complete his first phase matches without defeat. The consolation for Olajide Omotayo was that the loss to Ibrahima Diaw was his only defeat thus second place and progress to the quarter-finals was secured.
Four groups in the first stage of play in both the men’s and women’s events, players finishing in first and second positions in each group advance to the quarter-finals.
Surprise first place
Problems for Olajide Omotayo but a place in the main draw; however, there was one surprise name to book a last eight place.
Responding to the occasion, the host nation’s Adem Hmam, the no.9 seed and thus the third highest rated player in his group, secured runners up spot. After losing to Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna, the top seed, in his opening contest (11-5, 14-12, 11-4), he accounted for the Ivory Coast’s Kizito Oba Oba, the no.16 seed (12-10, 11-9, 13-11), prior to upsetting the order of merit but beating Algeria’s Sami Kherouf, the no.7 seed (6-11, 11-2, 11-8, 11-8).
Quadri Aruna, as expected, remained unbeaten to secure first place, a situation that also applied to the Egyptian duo Ahmed Ali Saleh, the no.2 seed and Omar Assar, the no.4 seed; according to status respective second places were reserved by Togo’s Kokou Dodji Fanny, the no.8 seed and Congo Democratic’s Saheed Idowu.
Tuesday 25th February – Men’s Singles Quarter-Finals (seeding positions in brackets)
12.20 Quadri Aruna Nigeria (1) v Kokou Dodji Fanny Togo (8)
12.20 Olajide Omotayo Nigeria (3) v Omar Assar Egypt (4)
12.20 Ibrahima Diaw Senegal (5) v Saheed Idowu Congo Brazzaville (6)
12.20 Adam Hmam Tunisia (9) v Ahmed Ali Saleh Egypt (2)
Good news for Tunisia in the guise of Adem Hmam, their sole representative in the men’s event; in the counterpart women’s competition it was even better news. A limit of two players per national association eligible in each event both Fadwa Garci and Safa Saidani booked main draw places.
Pride of place went to Safa Saidani, the no.10 seed and thus not expected to reserve a quarter-final berth.
After losing to Nigeria’s Offiong Edem, the no.2 seed (8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-6), she beat South Africa’s Simeen Mookrey, the no.8 seed (11-2, 11-6, 11-9) to reserve second spot. Offiong Edem, having one match earlier accounted for Simeen Mookrey (11-3, 8-11, 11-3, 11-7) duly secured first place.
Progress for Safa Saidini, it was the same for Fadwa Garci but as anticipated. The no.7 seed, after losing to Egypt’s Dina Meshref, the top seed (11-9, 11-5, 11-7), she overcame Nigeria’s Fatimo Bello, the no.9 seed (11-7, 11-4, 11-5) to reserve runners up spot. In the opening match, Dina Meshref had beaten Fatimo Bello (11-9, 11-4, 12-14, 11-6) and thus reserved first place.
Top two places as predicted
First and second positions as anticipated, it was the same in the remaining groups. Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou, the no.3 seed, finished ahead of Algeria’s Katia Kessaci, the no.6 seed; Egypt’s Yousra Helmy, the no.4 seed, secured first position with Lynda Loghraibi, the no.5 seed, also from Algeria in runners up spot.
However, life was not straightforward for Yousra Helmy, she was severely tested.
She needed the full five games to beat Nandeshwaree Jalim from Mauritius, the no.11 seed (11-6, 11-9, 10-12, 7-11, 13-11), as she did later in the day when facing Lynda Loghraibi (10-12, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7).
Tuesday 25th February – Women’s Singles Quarter-Finals (seeding positions in brackets)
11.30 Dina Meshref Egypt (1) v Lynda Loghraibi Algeria (5)
11.30 Safa Saidani Tunisia (10) v Sarah Hanffou Cameroon (3)
11.30 Yousra Helmy Egypt (4) v Katia Kessaci Algeria (6)
11.30 Fadwa Garci Tunisia (7) v Offiong Edem Nigeria (2)
The quarter-finals and semi-finals of both the men’s and women’s events will be played on Tuesday 25th February.
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