When Omar Assar started 2017, he set a target for himself and even when it seems things were not going his way, the Egyptian was not deterred from pursuing his dream.

After losing the Africa Cup to Aruna Quadri (NGR) in July, the 2015 African Games gold medalist moved to Germany to team up with Werder Bremen, his new club. And within a short time of intense training, things started to jell and the tide turned for Omar Assar.

This good tiding became obvious when Omar Assar worked his way from the preliminary round of the Austrian Open to the quarterfinal round of the men’s singles. Most his victims during the journey to the last eight were heavyweights.

The result of the Austrian Open performance was released on October 5 with the dramatic rise Omar Assar setting new standards for Africa as he moves ten places to number 21 in the world. This is a feat that has never been achieved by any African, Arab or Egyptian.

An excited Omar Assar said from his base in Germany that the result did not come on a platter of gold but hours and days of hardwork.
I feel very proud to reach such a high ranking. Earlier this year, one of the goals I set for myself was to reach the top 20 in the world. My next target is to continue to improve and I am setting a new target of ending the year in top 15 and what I just need to do now is to continue to work hard. I am sure that this is possible with more training.

“I must also admit that it was not easy at all for me to achieve such high rank in the world because I put pressure on myself to achieve this and I was practicing more than last year. The quality of my training was also different and also I had to change my practice method. I am more tactical now and also I am training my body movement after my result at the Africa Cup. I was a bit satisfied with my performance at some of the tournaments I had attended after the Africa Cup in Morocco, so it was the pressure I put on myself by doing something extra that paid off.”

“It is always good to achieve higher world ranking because you become more popular. I feel very proud of my continent Africa and my country, Egypt particularly being the first player from African, Arab and Egyptian to achieve such highest world ranking. I am sure it is not easy because there is also Aruna Quadri who is a good player and working hard. It has always been a challenge for both of us, as we try every time to be ahead of each other in the ranking. This is indeed a healthy rivalry because our aim is to be among the top 10 in the world,” he added.

Omar Assar admitted that his movement to Germany contributed immensely to his change of fortune in the sport. “When I moved to Germany, I was sure that if I reduce my travelling and invest more in my body and training time, this will make a huge impact in my game and this has shown clearly that I am playing in a very good club with a very good coach – Cristian Tamas. We are working together daily and I can see a very good improvement in my game. I got a good chance to practice with good players like Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Timo Boll and I was able to analyse my game. This has indeed given me a good chance to improve my game.”

To remain on top, he said: “I actually don’t want to maintain my status in the ranking as I will like to go forward every month. When you reach this kind of ranking, this is an opportunity for you to be more ambitious and continue to move up in the ranking. It also pushes and inspires you that you can do more than what you are doing.”

For upcoming African players, Omar Assar counsels, “Unfortunately there is a clear gap between the senior and junior African players. The gap between Aruna and I with other players has clearly shown that others are outside the top 100. I think they must follow the footsteps of better players because Aruna Quadri and I started early when we were young. We tried to compete with the best and we were not satisfied with our African titles. We wanted to do something internationally and this is the goal for every player right now. As a junior player, I will advise that even you try to copy what others are doing in your daily practice or you change your environment to a new table tennis environment, you must be ambitious and not be complacent. I believe this will give you chance to be a better player than what you are on a daily basis.”