Following his 0-4 loss to Taiwo Mati of Nigeria in the round of 16 of the ITTF Africa Cup, Kenya number 1 Brian Mutua believes there is a need to bolster his mental strength.
Mutua was the only Kenyan player who qualified for the round of 16 in the prestigious championship.
But after his loss to the Nigerian, he was relegated to the classification match where he lost 0-3 to Madagascan Fabio Rakotoarimanana in the 13-16 playoff.
Mutua emphasised: “Most table tennis players are all too familiar with the facet of the mental strength of competitions and this is one aspect of the game that we will need to improve on, over and above, our routine physical training,” Mutua who joined the Kenya national table tennis team in 2018 remarked.
He added: “What I have learnt from this tournament is that I need to work on my footwork and also on my consistency on the table. That messed me up in some of the matches but generally I played well,” said Mutua who singled out Mati as the toughest opponent he faced in the tournament thus far.
Kenya’s Josiah Wandera on his part noted that Kenyans can still perform well at the highest level in Africa. Like Mutua, the computer scientist also reckons that systematic mental and physical training are inevitable going forward.
Wandera played for City Eagles men’s team in the Africa Club Championship and got eliminated in the group stage of the ITTF-Africa Cup.
“Preparations are just as important. Mental training is hugely needed in sports, and not just table tennis. We played our hearts out but then again to compete with the very best we have to train with the best.”
And asked about the likes of Dina Meshref, Quadri Aruna and Omar Assar who have ruled the roost for the longest time possible Wandera added: “They are great players. Playing against them is a once in a lifetime opportunity. They live and eat pressure games and when it matters the most, that experience pays off for them. They are top professionals and we should interact and learn from them.”
Wandera: “Aruna is the highest ranked African globally. He has a very powerful forehand. He is pretty much a forehand dominant player with loads of international experience.”
Africa Cup serves as a dress rehearsal for African stars ahead of the first World Championships to be staged in the continent for the first time in 84 years.
The 2023 World Championships take place in Durban, South Africa from May 20 to 28 as all eyes will be on Quadri Aruna who became the first African to reach the quarterfinal at the global tournament.