Quadri Aruna on setting a new record for African table tennis: My hard work is paying off

The Nigerian becomes the first African to rank in the world's top 15, and told Olympics.com what it means for him to make history in the latest ITTF men's rankings.

By Evelyn Watta
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

Three-time Olympian Quadri Aruna continues to shine a spotlight on African table tennis.

The Nigerian star has become the first African player to be ranked in the top 15 in the ITTF ranking.

Aruna moved up four positions to the 15th slot according to the September 14 men's rankings.

“This means a lot. It shows my hard work is paying off,” Aruna told Olympics.com on his latest accomplishment.

In Rio 2016 he became the first African to reach the Olympic Games quarter-finals in table tennis.

Inspiring a generation

History matters for the world's best African player.

It’s even more important for Aruna if it continues to inspire future generations, and leaves him hungrier for success.

Since upsetting two highly ranked players Chuang Chih-yuan and Timo Boll - a former world number one - at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Aruna has often held that his rise is a reflection of Africa’s talent in the sport.

And his recent achievement attests to that.

After a busy summer competing at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021, the 33-year-old reached the last eight of the first-ever World Table Tennis event in Europe, held in Budapest in August.

Aruna then teamed up with compatriot Bode Abiodun to claim the men’s doubles title in the recently held African Championships in Cameroon, where he finished second in the men’s singles.

The reward for his great effort seems to be permeating through.

“I am very happy and very excited…For me it’s like my hard work is paying off,” said the new world number 15.

Positivity for African players

Omar Assar had reached the highest ranking ever by an African player in January 2018 when he placed 16th.

The Egyptian defeated Aruna 4-1 to claim the singles titles in Cameroon, after following in his rival’s footsteps at the Olympics.

Assar, now world number 28, finished fifth in Tokyo, losing to the eventual gold medallist Ma Long in the quarters.

“(The ranking) means a lot. It’s positivity for Nigerian and for African players,” said Aruna, who became even more popular after his Rio exploits.

“It’s like if I am able to achieve it, they can be able to achieve it. For them, this ranking will be a motivation for them to push even harder. I was in the quarter-finals of the Rio 2016, and four years later another African achieved it.”

The ITTF’s star player of 2014 intends to cement his spot among the worlds best.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games singles silver medallist hopes to be among the leading contenders in Tunisia, which will host the first-ever WTT event to be played on the African continent.

Tunisia will host WTT Contender Tunis in October from 24-30. Aruna then has the WTT Contender Slovenia (November 1-7) in his sights, before rounding off the season in Houston which hosts the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships Finals, between November 23-29.