Incheon: Four days on, it still hurts Saurav Ghosal, and it probably will for some more time. Though for the time being, the team gold that India won by beating Malaysia 2-0 in the final on Saturday will act as a balm.
The gold medal-winning Indian men's team of Saurav Ghosal (top extreme left), Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu, Mahesh Mangaonkar and Kush Kumar (extreme right) and the women's silver medal-winning team of Joshana Chinappa (below extreme left), Anaka Alankamony, Aparajitha Balamurukan and Deepika Pallikal (extreme right) with their medals. Pic/PTI
Ghosal won the second singles, albeit after being taken the full stretch to five games by Ong Beng Hee, the man he beat in the singles semi-finals, to secure for India an unassailable 2-0 lead in the team final and give India their first-ever Asian Games gold from squash.
Earlier, Malaysia spearheaded by Nicol Ann David outplayed India 2-0 in the women's final. Odette Arnold Delia beat Anaka Alankamony 11-9, 12-10, 11-2 in 43 minutes and then Nicol beat Dipika Pallikal 11-7, 11-6, 11-3 in less than 30 minutes to wrap up the gold. The Indian women still returned with silver.
India's haul of one gold, two silver and one bronze is their best-ever from squash at the Asian Games.
In the team final on Saturday, Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu gave India a flying start by outplaying Mohammad Azlan Bin Iskander 11-8, 11-6, 8-11, 11-4. Iskander, the 2010 singles champion, and a multiple Asian championships winner, has of late dipped in form and he was unable to keep pace with the energy level of the Indian rival.
Then came Ghosal's turn. The top seed and the best world ranked player at these Asian Games has still not mentally recovered from the loss suffered in the singles final at the hands of Kuwait's Abdullah Al Mezayen. This despite beating the Kuwaiti later on in the team semi-finals on Friday.
The scars showed as he said, "I am still disappointed to have lost the singles final and not won the gold for India. Today I retrieved myself by winning this match to ensure a gold medal for India and for my team."
The last win and the team gold medal would to have some extent exorcised the ghosts of the nightmarish defeat Ghosal suffered in the singles final, where he lost in five games after being two-up and wasting match-points.
Ghosal added, "Harry had given us a winning start, and I was not going to let him down. I was determined despite losing the fourth game. I could have clinched it when serving at 12-11, but hit the border."
Beng Hee, who won the Asian Games gold in 2002 and 2006 before fellow Malaysian Iskander won in 2010, won the first game 11-6 to put pressure on the Indian. But Ghosal was upto it as he rallied to win the second 11-7 to level the match. After taking the third at 11-6, the nightmare seemed to return for Ghosal as he failed to convert a 'matchball' at 12-11 in the fourth game. Beng Hee hung in and won the fourth game, as the Indian team sitting in the stands gasped in disbelief.
As Indian fans whispered, "No, not again," Ghosal picked up the threads and won the fifth and final game at 11-9 to secure he gold.
The fourth game saw Ghosal save three "game balls" (game points) then squander a "match ball' himself – when his drop hit the edge of the tin. Then Ong won the game to set up the rubber.
Ghoshal kept his composure and spiked a late rally by Ong to win the tie and spark celebrations in the Indian camp, which was dejected at a 0-2 loss to Malaysia in the women's team final.