Ali Alkhadrawi set to catch the eye in Tokyo?
A young man who in the cadet age group and then in junior years attracted the attention, left handed displaying a good feeling for the ball, the question posed is can Saudi Arabia’s Ali Alkhadrawi catch the eye at the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Just under one year ago in the Jordanian capital city of Amman, on Wednesday 26th February, he won the men’s singles event at the West Asia Olympic Qualification tournament and thus booked his flight east to the Japanese metropolis.
Safely through to the quarter-finals, he accounted Qatar’s Ahmad Al-Mohannadi (7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7, 11-6), before resisting a brave recovery by Jordan’s Zaid Abo Yaman (11-4, 11-7, 11-4, 8-11, 4-11, 8-11, 11-9) to reach the final where, in a rather less dramatic fashion, he overcame Lebanon’s Dauud Cheiab (11-7, 12-10, 6-11, 11-4, 11-8).
The success was very much the fruition of well over a decade of international play; now 23 years old, Ali Alkhadrawi first came to our notice in 2008 on the ITTF World Junior Circuit in Doha.
Competing in the junior boys’ singles event it was a baptism of fire; he was totally out of his depth. In three matches he recorded just 33 points, an average of less than four per game. He was beaten by Egypt’s Mahmoud Zaghoul (11-4, 11-5, 11-2), Singapore’s Clarence Chew (11-1, 11-5, 11-2) and Hong Kong’s Chui Chung Hei (11-5, 11-5, 11-4).
Undaunted, competing on the ITTF World Junior Circuit in such countries as Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and Sweden, he progressed; in 2014 in Bahrain, he won the junior boys’ singles title overcoming the host’s Rashed Saned in the final (9-11, 11-8, 4-11, 11-3, 12-10, 6-11, 11-8).
Later, in 2017 on the ITTF World Tour, he reached the quarter-final round of the under 21 men’s singles event in India, as well as the same round in the men’s singles at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku.
Now, the leading name in West Asia, can Ali Alkhadrawi set new standards for Saudi Arabia?
He is only the second player from the country to gain a place in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games; his one predecessor is Raid Al-Hamdan who competed in 1992 in Barcelona. In a rather different system to today’s straight knock-out, play commenced with 16 groups, those finishing in first position advancing to the main draw.
Alas, fourth place in the group was to be the lot of Raid Al-Hamdan. He was beaten by China’s Wang Tao (21-12, 21-7), Japan’s Koji Matsushita (21-8, 21-16) and Nigeria’s Yomi Bankole (14-21, 21-14, 21-14).
The goal for Ali Alkhadrawi in Tokyo is to improve on that performance; progress to the last 32 the goal, the last 16 a bonus?
Editor: Ian Marshall