At the ongoing International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Africa Senior championship in Cairo, host country, Egypt has made efforts to dominate all the seven titles at stake but their ambitions were thwarted.
Four of their top players partnered themselves and the top seeds in the event with only the duo of Athe men’s doubles by youthful Nigerian side.
Before the semifinal tie in the men’s doubles, there was no inkling that Nigeria could make it to the final as none of the players were seeded for the event with the Egyptians dominating being the defending champion.
And to also ensure that they dominated the event, Egypt assembled all their players to be part of the event with more than half of the 32 pairs of players that took part.
From the round of 32 that the event started, the top seeded Egyptian players were given a bye to the next round – round of 16 but Nigeria’s pair of Ojo Onaolapo and Jide Ogidiolu who were not seeded began their campaigns from the round of 32.
Thus, Onaolapo and Ogidiolu, to make it to the final, had to edge out seeded pairs like Congo Brazzaville’s Saka Suraju and Saheed Idowu in the round of 16.
The icing on the cake for the team was in the semifinal tie against Egypt’s Omar and Khalid Assar after the Nigerian duo bundled out the number five seeded team from Egypt.
The Nigerians ousted the Assar brother 7-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9, 5-11, 12-10, 11-2. “I think we communicated a great deal during the match and we did not allow them to attack”.
“I just told my partner not to be under pressure and ensure he put the ball on the table because I realized that they cannot cope with my top spin play; we were much focused,” Onaolapo said.
In the second semifinal match of the Men’s Doubles event, El-Sayed Lashin and Ahmed Ali Saleh, the top seeds, suffered defeat at the hands of Nigeria’s Makanjuola and Quadri, the no. 4 seeds 9-11, 11-8, 7-11, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-9.
With this, Nigeria is sure of gold and silver medals in the men’s doubles to halt the continued dominance of the Egyptians on the medal table.
On the other hand, Nigeria’s Olaide Atinuke and Funke Oshonaike, the no. 6 seeds, suffered a heart breaking seven games defeat against Congo Brazzaville’s Han Xing and Onyinyechi Nwachukwu, the no. 2 seeds (6-11, 11-9, 13-15, 11-7, 11-3, 7-11, 13-11).
The defeat came after Cecilia Otu-Akpan and Offiong Edem, the no. 4 seeds, had been beaten by Egypt’s Nadeen El-Dawlatly and Dina Meshref, the top seeds (11-3, 11-7, 7-11, 4-11, 12-10, 15-13).
“I think we played better after we won the first game; they started to raise their game and we lost concentration, after being two-nil ahead”, said Egypt’s Meshref.
“We figured out that they were rushing us, we slowed down the game and this gave us an edge to win.”
Meshref, who claimed that his team played with a great deal of top spin, further added: “At the 2011 All Africa Games we had lost to them, so we were really motivated.”