Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Pride of Africa Takes the World By Storm: MHTT Interview with Quadri Aruna

Quadri Aruna has set the world stage on fire by making an enormous leap in the ITTF World Rankings in 2014. Following his stellar performances at the Commonwealth Games, Czech Open and World Cup he has leaped over 200 places to assert himself among the best players in the world. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Washington DC at the North American Teams, he is a true champion, humble and kind and I had the unique pleasure of interviewing him on his career.

Be sure to give your vote to Aruna for the ITTF Star Awards Best Male Player at www.ittfstarawards.com

Quadri Aruna in action in Glasgow


Full Name: Aruna Quadri Akiande
Age: 26
Date of Birth: 8/9/1988
Highest World Ranking: 30

Equipment Used:
Blade: Joola Rosskopf Emotion
FH Rubber: Joola Rhyzm-P
BH Rubber: Joola Rhyzm-P

How long have you been playing table tennis for? When and how did you start?

I started playing when I was 7 years old and it was just to have some fun on the street. After some years I improved and in 2000 I started playing tournaments in Lagos, Nigera.

Tell us a bit more about Table Tennis in Nigeria, the playing conditions and resources etc. Has it been difficult to try and develop into a professional player?

Table Tennis is a popular sport in Nigeria. The playing conditions are average, not as good as in Europe. Table Tennis is not getting enough resources in terms of funding and that is the main problem of taking table tennis to a higher level in Nigeria. The main priority is based on some sports and not others.

Taking the game to professional level in Nigeria is not easy because we don't have sponsors for tournaments or playing leagues but we pray that things get back to normal positions. Presently their is no local league in Nigeria.

You currently play league in Portugal, how is the competition level there and has this been a big step in developing your game?

The level in Portugal is moderate, not too low and not too high, but it's ok to keep myself busy throughout this season. I can say that I improved a lot in Portugal since I came here in 2010 and have continued to improve to this moment. I have good training partners in Portugal and with that I improved rapidly.

What is your biggest dream for your table tennis career?

My biggest dream is to be ranked top 10 in the world and winning several titles is another objective. I also hope to have an academy in the future, provided I can get

Aruna defeats Apologia at Czech Open

You had great success at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year where you beat Zhan Jian from Singapore who was the eventual Gold Medallist. How did you feel after winning that match?

Winning against Zhan Jian was my biggest win at that time in Glasgow and I was so happy then. I seriously believed that I had worked hard to this level and I believed that I deserved it.

You had a string of exceptional results starting with the Czech Open where you defeated Marc Duran, Alexey Liventsov, Alexander Shibaev and Tiago Apolonia. What do you think helped your level rise before that event?

Playing tournaments regularly helped a lot because the more I played the more I improved. I was lucky to get a little funding which helped me to play tournaments regularly and sometimes I had to put in my own money as well because the government is not helping the sport in Nigeria and the main priority is giving to Football.

You seem to be very comfortable with the new ball, how do you feel about competing with it so far?

I can say that no one is comfortable with the new ball and it is very different. It has less spin and it changes position. I really don't have any advantage with the new ball but I am the kind of player that doesn't care about changes much as we are all playing in the same conditions. I feel normal with the new ball the only real difference is the spin.

Post-Match Selfie of Aruna and Zhang Jike at 2014 World Cup

Congratulations on your results at the World Cup, what was your goal going into the competition?

My main goal before the World Cup was to qualify from the group stage which everyone sees as the main difficult, then after the group stage I said I believed going to quarterfinal because nothing is impossible in the knockout stages. My confidence worked really well for me and I played without fear and was relaxed throughout the tournament.

How did you feel about your performance against World Champion Zhang Jike? We saw a great fight by you to win 2 games, did you feel like you had a strong chance during the match?

Playing against Zhang Jike was a dream come true and I initially believed it was going to be 4-0. I won the first set easily with service and in the second set he easily corrected some of his mistakes which changed the game. After the first set my confidence increased and I believed I could win. I really gave my 100% best and I was just unfortunate to miss some easy balls which made me lose the match.

What is your big goal for 2015?

I want to retain my African Cup title and if possible surpass my World Cup record. I would love to be in the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals next year. Egypt has ruled Africa for years and by God's grace my target is to dethrone Egypt in the next African Games.

Playing in a better league is another objective and I think I stand a chance of playing in a better club next season. My aim is to play in France, Poland or Germany.

ITTF Shot of the Day (Day 2 World Cup 2014)
Aruna shows Zhang Jike some footwork skills

Off the Topic Questions

Favourite Food?
Nigerian food called Amala, which is made from dried Cassava

What do you do when you aren't playing table tennis?
I love to be on the internet when I am not practicing, I love listening to music and also playing Candy Crush is my second hobby after table tennis.

Dream Car?
I don't have a strong affinity for cars but I love different types of Toyota model.

Ideal Holiday Destination?
I always prefer to spend my holidays in Nigeria because there is no place like home.

First thing you would do if you won $1 million?
I would invest in different areas to ensure the money grows well. I would buy a nice house and a good car and be sure to take care of my parents very well with the money.

And Lastly...

Would you like to add one last tip, or inspirational message for other table tennis players looking to succeed?

They should believe in themselves all the time, they should be positive all the time and finally they should believe that nothing is impossible if they work harder towards it.

Hard work really pays a lot which might be difficult in the beginning.

Thank you so much for taking the time Aruna and good luck for 2015!




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