Jakarta : Joshna Chinappa upstaged eight-time world champion Nicol David as the Indian women’s squash team outplayed defending champions Malaysia 2-0 to enter its second successive Asian Games final here on Friday.
The Indian men, who also entered the mega-event as defending champions, settled for bronze after a 0-2 loss to Hong Kong in the semi-finals. Saurav Ghosal, who was not fully fit, and Harinder Pal Sandhu, lost to Max Lee and Leo Au, 0-3 and 1-3 respectively.
The loss came after the women’s team created the biggest upset in the draw, blanking the David-led Malaysia. The team, comprising Joshna, Dipika Pallikal Karthik and Sunayna Kuruvilla, is now assured of at least a silver.
Joshna, World No.16, had a point to prove after a crushing loss against familiar foe Annie Au in the final pool match against Hong Kong.
India lost the tie 1-2 and finished behind Hong Kong, resulting in a tougher opponent in Malaysia, the most dominant team in the Games’ history.
The match against Nicol went down to the wire and was full of long gruelling rallies.
Joshna had a match ball on 10-9 in the fourth game but the Malaysian fought back to take the next three points, levelling the opening singles at 2-2.
The crowd support was heavily in favour of Malaysia but not enough to distract the gritty Indian.
This time she converted the match ball on 10-9 to complete the biggest win of her Asian Games career. “I was very upset yesterday [on Thursday] as you must have seen. I did not play the way I was supposed to play. Spoke to my parents and coach and that helped.
“Today [on Friday], I just wanted to be myself. Nicol is such a champion. She always plays a fair game and today was no different. Really happy to have come through,” said Joshna after a 12-10, 11-9, 6-11, 10-12, 11-9 victory.
Nicol was gracious in her defeat. “Joshna played really well. It was a very good match and I could not play my A game,” said Nicol after the loss.
World No. 19 Dipika Pallikal Karthik too did not play to her potential against Joey Chan on Thursday.
But on Friday in the second singles, she came out firing on all cylinders against former World No. 5 Low Wee Wern.
The Indian’s brute power was too much to handle for Wee Wern, who is on a comeback trail after a 20-month injury lay-off.
The scoreline may not suggest but it was a tricky match for Pallikal, who eventually pulled through 11-2, 11-9, 11-7. “The plan was definitely to rattle her with my power. Wee Wern has been a top player and has already won three tournaments after her comeback.
“Also, I had to do it for Joshna. She played such a great match to get us on the brink of a win,” said Pallikal.
India will play Hong Kong in the final, against whom they lost in the group stage. “Hong Kong are as tough to beat as Malaysia. They have a very solid team. But our confidence has got a major boost after today,” she added.
With the win, India have equalled their best performance at the Games, having won a silver four years ago.
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