Despite recording a nail-biting 3-1 (11-8, 11-6, 9-11, 11-8) win over Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna at the WTT Champions Macao, Olympic and World champion Ma Long of China was indeed relieved to overcome the Nigerian star in the men’s singles.
Rated fourth in the world Ma Long who was a familiar foe to Aruna knew before the encounter that he would need to raise his game to beat the Nigerian star.
Being the second time in recent times that Ma Long will be facing Aruna at the big stage, the encounter lived up to expectations as they both sized up themselves in a battle of backhand and forehand.
Like a man who escaped by a whisker, Ma Long said after the match that he was surprised with the backhand play of Aruna.
“I think it was a very tough match today. I was more active in the first game, but we were very close in the last three games, especially in the third and fourth games. The overall strength of the opponent, including the quality of his play, really put a lot of pressure on me. People always say Aruna has a really good forehand, but today I think his backhand is really good as well,” a relieved Ma Long said during the post-match interview.
Also, Egypt’s duo of Omar Assar and Dina Meshref failed in their bid to progress to the second round after losing 3-2 to Brazil’s Hugo Calderano and Australia’s Yangzi Liu.
Calderano has come through a five-game nail-biter on Day 1 at WTT Champions Macao 2023, holding his nerve to see off Assar by the narrowest of margins (8-11, 11-5, 8-11, 11-8, 11-9).
Seeded 5th in Macao, Calderano was made to work hard for the win by his Egyptian counterpart, who sensed an opportunity to claim his first-ever international victory over the “Thrill from Brazil ”.
With compatriot Meshref lending her support and words of wisdom from the coaching corner, Assar entered the match with real intent but he was left heartbroken in his search for a first win on the WTT Champions as Calderano advances to meet Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany in the second round.
Meshref in the women’s singles was unlucky as Liu scored a milestone win over World No.25 at 3-2 (8-11, 11-6, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7).