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Aruna Reaches Quarter-Final In Houston, Improves African Record

Austin Okon-Akpan  
Updated November 27, 2021
Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna is seen in action at the World Championship in Houston. Picture courtesy: ITTF.

 

Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna has become the first African to reach the quarter-final stage in the history of the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals.

The Nigerian is making a loud statement and his presence is being felt amidst the array of stars competing at the 2021 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals taking place at the George R. Brown Convention Centre in Houston, Texas, United States.

Record Breaker

Earlier on Thursday, Aruna smashed the round of 32 record set in 2019 by Egypt’s duo of Omar Assar and Ahmed Saleh after beating India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran 4-3 (11-9, 7-11, 13-15, 11-3, 4-11, 11-9, 11-7) into the round of 16.

But late on Friday, November 26, he erased the record to set another one with a place in the quarterfinal of the championships.

In the round of 16 contest, the 2014 ITTF World Player of Year improved the record to become the first Nigerian and African player to feature in the last eight at the World Table Tennis Championship after he defeated Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson 4-3 (11-9, 5-11, 13-11, 5-11, 6-11, 11-8, 11-6).

“It’s amazing. I had to dig deep, and I gave everything I had. I’m excited about the quarter-final. I’ve been playing very well and the spirit of never giving up is always there,” said Aruna during a post-match interview.

Aruna’s historic passage to the last eight at the World Table Tennis Championship is a testament to the growth of table tennis in Africa. “It means a lot to me,” he said, “especially for Nigeria and the whole of Africa. Table tennis is growing very fast in Africa. Now we have several players in the Top 100.”

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Sustaining The Momentum

Reaching the last 8 of the world championship is already a recording-breaking feat for Aruna, but sustaining the momentum is what will keep him going.

The Nigerian will confront another Swedish record-breaker Truls Moregard in the quarter-final clash tonight in Houston. The Swedish player who is ranked 77th in the world beat South Korea’s Lim Jonghoon 4-3 to advance at the tournament.

Aruna and the Swede last met in August at the WTT Contender in Budapest and Moregard won 3-2. The Nigerian will go into the contest on Saturday night, relying on his current form and the support he has received worldwide after a record-breaking performance.

Tournament Sparks

According to ITTF, players from Africa, Europe, North America, South America, and Asia are expected to continue lighting up the historical event which is being hosted in the Americas for the first time in its storied history.

While the Asian and European players have not disappointed with their stellar performances, their challenges on the international stage are now continuously being tested by emerging powerhouses from the rest of the world, making table tennis a genuinely global sport.

Kanak Jha also proved he could match up to anyone on his day. The 21-year-old American is part of the new generation of up-and-coming stars destined to light up the competition in the table tennis world. He is the first man American player to reach this stage since 1959.

Although fellow Pan-American Adriana Diaz did not qualify for the quarterfinals, she achieved her best result during this World Championships by reaching the round of 16.

The first female table tennis player to represent Puerto Rico on the Olympic stage hopes many will follow her path. “I want to move the sport forward, make more people play, and bring even more people to my sport,” she said after her match.

Brazil’s Hugo Calderano, who won his first international title at WTT Star Contender Doha in September and currently ranks number four, becomes the first-ever Brazilian to reach the quarterfinals.

While this year’s World Championships quarterfinals truly showcase the universality of table tennis, the ITTF will do its utmost to foster new initiatives and ultimately grow the sport worldwide.