Riding the wave of the first World Championships held on African soil in 84 years, Omar Assar of Egypt fought to become the second African paddler to reach the World Championships quarterfinals.
DURBAN, South Africa, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Following his historic victory at the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships (WTTC) Finals, Omar Assar had a video chat with his family back in Egypt.
"I always call my family, my wife, and my child. Whether I win or lose, I try to touch base with them to see how they are because I'm very focused before the match and try to keep my phone at a distance," he explained. "That's why immediately after the match, I miss them tremendously and I'm eager to call them. My mother is the next person I call," he said, grinning.
Assar, ranked world No. 30, bested Tomislav Pucar of Croatia in straight games on Thursday. In doing so, he became the second African player to reach the World Championships quarterfinals, following Nigerian Quadri Aruna's historic achievement two years ago in Houston. This success came on the heels of his triumph at the ITTF Africa Cup earlier this month.
"I'm extremely happy to reach the quarterfinals as an African player. I'm eagerly anticipating the next round, hoping to deliver a robust performance," he told Xinhua.
In the first World Championships held on African soil in 84 years, the 31-year-old Egyptian has already penned a new chapter in his country's sporting history.
He overcame the 2021 World Championships runner-up, Truls Moregard of Sweden, with a 4-2 victory. A last-16 berth marks the farthest progression Assar has made at a World Championships Finals.
Yet, Assar isn't halting his quest for more glory. Following Thursday's victory, he has secured a quarterfinal match-up against the reigning champion and world No. 1, Fan Zhendong of China, on Friday.
"Fan Zhendong is an incredible player. He demonstrates immense strength on both sides and boasts a strong determination and mental fortitude," Assar remarked.
"I'll be revisiting our previous matches, learning from my past mistakes, and devising a game plan, just like any other player," he added.
The last time an African country hosted the table tennis worlds was in Assar's homeland, Egypt.
"It's particularly special to me, as Egypt was the first in Africa to host the World Championships," he noted.
Beyond his remarkable performance in Durban, Assar hopes that his achievements can transcend the confines of the playing field to inspire more Africans to participate in table tennis.
"I aim to promote table tennis in Africa. The goal of hosting the World Championships in Africa is to inspire players to take up the sport.
"I hope that witnessing us, not just me, but all African players, will encourage them to start playing table tennis. I would be incredibly happy if I could contribute to this," he stated.
For Assar, promoting table tennis in Africa is his ultimate goal.
"I aspire to popularize it first in my homeland, Egypt, and then, of course, in Africa as a whole," he concluded.