Africa’s best male player Aruna Quadri lived up to the hype after he defeated veteran Egyptian Ahmed Saleh 4-3 in a gruelling encounter in the first semifinal of the men’s singles event at the 2021 ITTF African Championship in Yaounde, Cameroon.
After his 4-1 semifinal victory over Egypt’s Mohamed Shouman, Aruna Quadri was facing his biggest test of the tournament against Ahmed Saleh, over whom he claimed gold in the men’s doubles final on September 6th. Both men were out for superiority, having each tasted defeat against each other in team events, with Saleh’s Egypt defeating Quadri’s Nigeria 3-2 in the final of the teams event.
Before facing Aruna Quadri, Saleh had been the architect of the downfall of two Nigerian players in consecutive rounds as he sent teenager Samuel Boboye crashing out of the Round of 16, and Bode Abiodun crashing out of the quarterfinals.
It was the 41-year-old Ahmed Saleh that first took the initiative in their semifinal match at the Versatile Sports Palace in Yaounde. Aruna Quadri lost the first two sets to his Egyptian opponent 10-12 and 6-11 before rallying to claim the next two sets 11-5 and 11-7 to level the tie at two sets apiece. Saleh raised his game once again and handed Quadri a 8-11 loss in the fifth set of the match to once again seize control. Aruna Quadri showed great fighting spirit as he dug deep to claim the last two sets, 11-8 and 11-4 and book his place in the final of the tournament after a 4-3 (10-12; 6-11; 11-5; 11-7; 8-11; 11-8; 11-4) win.
Aruna Quadri would face another Egyptian Omar Assar in the final of the tournament after the Egyptian flawlessly defeated Senegalese star Ibrahima Diaw 4-0 in the other semifinal. Assar defeated Ibrahima Diaw 11-4; 11-4; 11-5 and 11-6 to set up a showdown with the number one ranked player in Africa, Aruna Quadri. Assar was responsible for the elimination of Nigeria’s Olajide Omotayo in the quarterfinal of the tournament in Yaounde.