The long wait for a Nigerian Champion at the Seamaster ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open came to an end on Sunday, as the 6th edition of the tournament came to a climax at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
Top seed at the tournament, Quadri Aruna, who bore the hopes of Nigerians, sent the home fans into a frenzy as he overcame the threat posed by Frenchman Antoine Hachard in the men’s Singles final to become the first ever Nigerian (male or female) to win the title at the Nigeria Open, taking a 4-2 victory (11-13, 11-3, 8-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-7).
Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode was on ground to witness the historic event, and joined the fans in supporting the Nigerian who is currently ranked 18th in the world.
Aruna was no doubt under intense pressure to deliver as the top seed and last Nigerian standing. The 2018 Commonwealth Games Silver medallist lost the first set to Hachard who initially raced to a 3-1 lead before the Nigerian leveled up at 3-3, but then eventually lost the game. However, Aruna took the second game 11-3, but then lost the third one 8-11. He then bounced back in the fourth set and maintained his lead until the end of the game.
Aruna had defeated Thailand’s Supanut Wisutmaythangkoon 4-0 in the semis on Sunday morning to set up the clash with Hachard.
Speaking with Making of Champions after the final, an overwhelmed Aruna said: “I am happy, and the history is not just for me; it’s for all the Nigerian players. It doesn’t matter who won this tournament; what matters is that a Nigerian finally won, and this is big history for us.
“The crowd was amazing. They gave almost all the needed support to me. Without them, this would never have been possible for me. I just had to keep going even when I was tired, but these amazing people never get tired; they won the match for me.”
Asides winning the $5,000 as winner of the competition, Aruna was also a recipient of the Governor’s bonus which came with the sum of N1,000,000. He was also awarded the Fair Play Award after pointing out to the umpires who had awarded a point to him during the game, that Antoine Hachard should be given the point instead as his effort hit the edge of the table. The award came with a prize of $200.
It was a Chinese affair in the women’s final as Yan Guo defeated compatriot Chen Sun 4-3 in a highly competitive game, which was only decided in the final set. This was Guo’s second title at the tournament as she also won the women’s U-21 category the previous day.
Fenjie Qi and Chen Sun won the women’s Doubles ahead of teammates Siqi Fan and Yan Guo (3-0).
Frenchmen Alexandre Robinot and Joe Seyfried claimed the men’s Doubles title as they defeated the duo of Tamas Lakatos and Benedek Olah 3-1 to win the $3000 at stake in the category.
China’s Shaobo Wang won the men’s U-21 title by outplaying India’s Ronit Bhanja 3-0.
Nigeria’s Jamiu Ayanwale was adjudged the best home-based player of the tournament and was awarded $200 for his efforts.