Winner of the ITTF-Africa Cup in late June in Lagos, Quadri Aruna was the player to cause the first upset of note at the Liebherr 2014 Men’s World Cup in Düsseldorf, as matters commenced in the initial group stage of proceedings on the morning of Friday 24th October.
The 26 year old Nigerian, the no.17 seed, overpowered Japan’s Kenta Matsudaira, the no.12 seed, to set the tournament alight.
Long expansive strokes, very much reminiscent of his predecessor Atanda Musa who COMPETED in six World Cup events between 1984 and 1989; Quadri Aruna recorded an impressive five games success (11-3, 7-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-2, 13-11).
Nothing to Lose
“I had lost against three Japanese players in the past, although they were defenders but when I knew I was going to face Matsudaira, I knew had nothing to lose being a player ranked lower than him”, said Quadri Aruna. “When I started it was a bit difficult but I had to control the GAME and ensured that I played my best; for me this win is very important as it boosts my morale ahead of the second match against the Russian.”
In his second contest Quadri Aruna meets Alexander Shibaev. However, prior to that contest taking place; Alexander Shibaev must confront Kenta Matsudaira. The future of the 23 year old from Japan is now on the proverbial razor edge.
Players finishing each of the four groups in first and second places advance to the main draw.
Aiming for Revenge
“I am sure the Russian will be aiming for revenge, follow the result at the Czech OPEN”, added Quadri Aruna. “However, for me, the win against Kenta Matsudaira has put me in a good frame of mind.”
At the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour Czech Open earlier this year in late August, Quadri Aruna beat Alexander Shibaev in the first round of the Men’s Singles event in a tense seven games contest decided by the very narrowest of margins (8-11, 12-10, 11-13, 11-4, 9-11,11-9, 11-9).
Success for Quadri Aruna against the odds but in the remaining OPENING encounters matters progressed as per status.
Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia, the no.9 seed, fresh from the glory of gold at the TMS 2014 European Team Championships, beat Brazil’s Cazuo Matsumoto, the no.18 seed (11-7, 14-16, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8) and was somewhat relieved to have negotiated the OPENING hurdle against a difficult opponent.
“It was not an easy match, especially being my first and my first appearance in a World Cup”, said Tiago Apolonia. “It was difficult playing against an aggressive Matsumoto but I am happy that I won.”
Left handed, pen-hold grip; outstanding in the area of service and first attack, Cazuo Matsumoto is very different from the vast majority of modern day players. Finding a rhythm against him can be very difficult; Tiago Apolonia was clearly in tune.
A five games win for Tiago Apolonia, it was a straight games success for Panagiotis Gionis of Greece, the no.10 seed and very much playing on home soil; he represents Borussia Düsseldorf in the German Bundesliga.
He beat Australia’s William Henzell, the no.19 seed (11-9, 11-8, 11-8, 11-8).
Adapting to New Ball
“I’m really happy with the game, it was a good and exciting game, even if I lost four-nil”, said a philanthropic William Henzell. “In the critical moments he was simply safer perhaps due to the new plastic ball; I have WORKED OUT for two months with the plastic ball but this is my first competition.”
Clearly the Australian needs time to adjust to the new ball.
“My game lives on from the mistakes my opponents make because of my spin and with the new ball I do not get so much on the ball”, added William Henzell. “Moreover, this was my first match against defence since the 2012 Olympics; I think Panagiotis Gionis has a good chance to reach the quarter-finals.”
American Teenager Gives Chen Chien-An Rude Awakening
Victory as predicted and it was the same for Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An in opposition to 14 year old Kanak Jha from the United States but he did have quite a rude awakening.
Kanak Jha, the no.20 seed, captured the opening game before Chen Chien-An, the no.11 seed, responded to capture the next four (11-13, 11-6, 11-5, 11-2, 11-6).
Defeat for Kanak Jha but he was not downhearted, quite the reverse.
“I was so excited playing my first match in this competition; it was a good experience playing against a world class players”, said Kanak Jha. “I have been watching some of the players but playing against them is indeed a big honour; I knew it was not going to be easy against Chen Chen-An but when I won the first game I just tried to play stronger; to be sincere it was not going to be an easy task for me.”
It is an incredible feat for Kanak Jha even to be in Düsseldorf.
World Class Opponents
“Every player wants to play against world class players as all the players taking part in this competition are world class”, stressed Kanak Jha. “I am indeed so excited being part of this World Cup.”
Excited and there by right; his win in late June in Vancouver at the ITTF-North American Cup is now part of his nation’s sporting folklore.