By Liam Morgan

Quadri Aruna made history by claiming the Male Table Tennis Star at the ITTF awards in Dubai ©ITTFQuadri Aruna became the first African to be crowned 2014 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Male Star at a glittering awards ceremony at the Armani Hotel in Dubai tonight. 

The 26-year old Nigerian - ranked 30 in the world after starting the year at 237- beat off competition from Portugal's Marcos Freitas and Chinese pair Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin to land the coveted prize.

Aruna's world ranking is the highest ever achieved by an African player.

"This is the best day of my career and my life," he said after receiving his award.

"I feel so great to be the winner in the midst of the world's superstars.

"This award means the world to me."

The Female Table Tennis Star award was won by Chinese world number one Ding Ning, who was chosen ahead of compatriot Liu Shiwen, as well as Singapore's Feng Tianwei and Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa.

Spain's Alvaro Valera was named Male Para Table Tennis Star, while the Female Para Table Tennis Star went to Sandra Paović of Croatia.

It was also a successful night for Portugal's Pedro Rufino, who was given the first-ever Table Tennis Star Coach award ahead of Germany's Volker Ziegler and China's Kong Linghui after he guided his nation to a European Championship gold.

Aruna added to his prestigious gong by claiming the Star Point for an incredible rally with China's Zhang Jike, who was fined $45,000 (£28,000/€36,000) for putting his foot through an advertising board after winning the World Cup final in Düsseldorf last October. 

China's Ding Ning was voted Female Table Tennis Star after reclaiming the number one world ranking in what was a successful year for her ©ITTFChina's Ding Ning was voted Female Table Tennis Star after reclaiming the number one world ranking in what was a successful year for her ©ITTF

That money has gone towards financing a brand new Fair Play award, which was claimed by Chinese-born Austria Liu Jia for her act of sportsmanship in a match at the World Cup.

Jia admitted her opponent's shot had clipped the edge of the table, which was missed by the referee.

The star-studded awards ceremony - held in the Burj Khalifa, world's tallest building - capped off a wonderful year for Aruna after he won the won the ITTF Africa Cup, and he also became the highest-ever ranked African player when he reached number 30.

Ding also enjoyed a successful 2014 as she reclaimed her number spot in the Women's World Rankings, in addition to emerging successful at the ITTF World Tour China Open and the Women's World Cup.

The Male and Female awards were decided by 60,000 public votes from all around the globe, combined with the judging results of an expert panel, consisting of a representative from the ITTF Athletes Commission, the ITTF Para Division, the ITTF President Thomas Weikert and four members of the international media.

"We had a great evening in Dubai," said Ding.

"Thanks ITTF and all the people who are helped made me who I am today.

"Thank you to my coach, my team and all my fans for supporting me."

Two new Stars were guaranteed as last year's winners - Chinese pair Zhang Jike and Li Xiaoxia - were not nominated.

The event in Dubai is due to be followed by the start of the 2015 ITTF World Team Cup which will see 12 teams battle it out in order to be crowned world champions.

The event is scheduled to begin tomorrow and conclude on Sunday (January 11). 

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