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Table Tennis: Assar Eyes Quadri’s Feat At Singapore Smash

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Egyptian table tennis star Omar Assar is now just one win away from equalling Quadri Aruna of Nigeria’s quarterfinal feat at last year’s Singapore Smash, after the African Games champion progressed from the round of 16 of the 2024 Singapore Smash.

In the first round, Assar had taken down local favourite Quek Izaac, who defied the odds to reach the round of 16 last time out in the Lion City. But against the Egyptian, he suffered an opening round defeat on Monday, March 11th, losing out  3-1 (3-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-4) to Assar.

Assar, who has never gone beyond round of 64 at the $1.5m prize money tournament, booked his ticket to the third round with a 3-2 (11-5, 11-8, 13-15, 9-11, 11-5) win over Lee Sang Su on Wednesday, March 13th.

Twice he had exited Singapore Smash at the round of 64 hurdle in 2022 and 2023, Assar carried the hopes and dreams of a continent on his shoulders as the last African player left standing at the 2024 event.

Trailing the head-to-head record 2:5, Assar had not enjoyed the best time in recent match-ups in the rivalry, with his last victory over Lee coming in 2014. In their most recent encounter at WTT Champions Xinxiang 2023, Assar saw a two-game lead slip through his fingers, losing out over five games.

The two players would go the distance again, but this time Assar would have the last laugh, showing nerves of steel to hold off a late comeback charge against the Korean.

“Well, it was a match to remember, for sure. I mean, Lee Sang Su is an amazing player, one of the very rare players who has won against the top three Chinese in the world,” Assar said. “He had already had an incredible tournament so far, beating Lin Gaoyuan, so I had all this in my mind.”

“I expected that he would perform very well, which he did, and I was ready from the first point. This is what I’m very happy about. Usually I take a little bit of time, first set and then I start to build up. But tonight I was on fire from the beginning.”

“Positive, good energy, good tactic and also accepting mistakes. So, this is what I’m very happy about today,” an excited Assar added.

Awaiting Assar in the round of 16 is qualifying hero Sharath Kamal Achanta of India, who has rolled back the clock at Singapore Smash 2024, taking down world No.13 Darko Jorgic earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, Aruna who despite back injury edged out South Korea’s Lim Jonghoon 3-2 (11-4, 4-11, 7-11, 11-9, 14-12) but on Tuesday, March 12, was shown the exit in the round of 16 by Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu with a 3-0 (12-14, 7-11, 9-11) loss.

 

ITTF-Africa/Chidi Nwoke.

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