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ITTF World Cup: Aruna, Assar get opponents

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Quadri Aruna

Quadri Aruna, Nigeria’s sole flagbearer at the ITTF World Cup, Macao 2024, has been drawn in Group 15 of the men’s singles, a statement by the African Table Tennis Federation (ATTF) confirmed on Sunday.

According to the statement, the Nigerian will slug it out against Portugal’s Marcos Freitas and Puerto Rico’s Daniel Gonzalez.

Similarly, Egypt’s Omar Assar has also been handed the tough task of progressing within the group.

Forty-eight players have been drawn into 16 groups of three players in each group, with the winner in each group advancing to the second stage of the competition.

Aruna, who has been a regular face at the ITTF World Cups, remains the first and only African to have reached the quarterfinal stage of the $1 million prize money tournament.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Nigerian is expected to begin his campaign against Portugal’s Freitas on April 15, while his last group match will be on April 16 against Puerto Rico’s Gonzalez.

Also, Egypt’s trio of Omar Assar, Ahmed Saleh, and Mohamed El-Beiali have been drawn into groups 16, 11, and 9, respectively.

African Games champion Assar will slug it out against Sweden’s Truls Moregard and Iran’s Noshad Alamiyan.

Egyptian veteran Saleh has been handed a tough group 11, as he will battle former European champion Dan Qui of Germany and Japan’s Shunsuke Togami.

El-Beiali, who is debuting at the ITTF World Cup, will jostle for the top spot against Korea’s Jang Woojin and France’s Simon Gauzy in group nine.

Also, three Egyptians and a Cameroonian will represent Africa in the women’s singles, as Yousra Helmy, Hana Goda, and Mariam Alhodaby will campaign in groups nine, 12, and 11.

Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou will compete in Group 11 alongside Korea’s Joo Cheonhui and Brazil’s Bruna Takahashi.

According to ITTF, top seed Wang Chuqin of China is set to begin this inaugural Men’s World Cup campaign against Kirill Gerassimenko and An Jaehyun in Group 1.

With flawless head-to-head records against both opponents (2:0 against Gerassimenko and 5:0 against An), Wang appears to have a favourable path to progress to the next stage.

With two previous titles in Macao at the WTT Champions Macao 2023 and 2022, Wang is setting the stage for an impressive performance next week that is sure to delight fans.

The defending champion, Fan Zhendong, will embark on his title defence against Wong Chun Ting and Benedikt Duda.

With an impressive 16-match win streak, Fan aims to continue his momentum by securing his 17th and 18th victories early in the tournament.

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Recently claiming the WTT Feeder Varazdin 2024 title and a mixed doubles ticket to the Paris Olympic Games, Wong is currently in top form and will pose quite a challenge to the World No. 2.

In the women’s singles, top seed Sun Yingsha faces her initial challenges in Group 1 against Chen Szu-Yu and Zhu Chengzhu.

Having encountered both opponents multiple times and emerged victorious in each encounter, Sun’s campaign in the World Cup is expected to start without major obstacles.

Nonetheless, given the new four-game format, the outcome on the table remains unpredictable, leaving room for any player to seize victory.

In Group 4, defending champion Chen Meng will confront Sreeja Akula and Natalia Bajor as she strives to reclaim her title.

This encounter will represent the first meeting between the 2020 Women’s World Cup winner and either Akula or Bajor.

Notably, Akula and Bajor have only faced each other once before, in 2019, when Akula emerged victorious with a narrow 4-3 margin.

The 2016 Women’s World Cup winner, Miu Hirano, will kick off her 2024 World Cup run, facing off Jia Nan Yuan and Jocelyn Lam in Group 14.

This will mark the first encounter for any of these players on the international stage. (NAN)

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