Quadri Aruna continued to set records in table tennis after the Nigerian became the first African and Nigeria to qualify for the quarterfinal of the WTT Singapore Smash after beating world number four Tomokazu Harimoto in the round of 16 of the men’s singles at the Infinity Arena on Thursday March 16.
The Nigerian is the only surviving African in the competition following the early exit of Egypt’s quartet of Omar Assar, Dina Meshref, Hana Goda and Mariam Alhodaby.
Having lost thrice to the Japanese superstar who is ranked fourth in the world, the 14th rated player in the world showed class and composure to stun Harimoto at a big stage in Singapore.
Aruna demystified Harimoto to end his losing streak against the tournament’s 4th seed at 3-0 (11-7, 13-11, 11-7).
Prior to the encounter, it was clear that Aruna was the clear underdog against Harimoto but the African highest ranked player came prepared with his sterling display to record a flawless triumph at the Infinity Arena in Singapore.
Aruna never hid his intention to silence his opponent from the beginning of the match and he brought his best to the table hammering Harimoto with his ferocious backhand shots that most times confused the Asian star.
Even when Harimoto was trailing 5-0 in the second game, he managed to bring the score back to level by pushing it into deuce but couldn’t muster enough to overpower Aruna who found the answers for him.
Hoping to repeat what he did during the round of 32 when he had to come back from a 2-0 down to beat his French opponent, Harimoto’s hope was dashed as Aruna squashed his possible comeback, dominating the rallies and sailing to his first ever victory over the wonder kid.
“I actually spoke with some coaches here and they gave me some great advice on how to play Harimoto so I thought, “Let me try.” I’ve been trying out some tactics before against him and it didn’t work but the advice from the coaches really worked very well for me today. But of course I have to keep the advice to myself for our next meeting,” a delighted Aruna said.
“When it was 5-0, I had been serving short to his forehand and I was trying to change it up, maybe serve long to his backhand just to make him a little bit uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it was a mistake and he caught up to 5-5, but I wasn’t giving up. I put myself together and kept fighting,” the Nigerian said.
“I’m very happy here — Singapore always brings positive memories. Two years ago, I made it to the quarterfinals here when I beat Liang Jingkun from China (at the WTT Cup Finals Singapore 2021). This actually was a very good one for me. For Africa and Nigeria, it’s another quarterfinal and I really hope I can make it count this time too,” Aruna said.
Aruna will now face the winner of Hugo Calderano of Brazil and Darko Jorgic of Slovenia in the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, home favourite Quek Izaac’s dream run came to an end in the round of 16 , following a 3-0 defeat to 3rd seed Wang Chuqin of China (11-4, 11-6, 11-7).