Incheon: The past two days have put Indian squash into the kind of focus it has never had in the past. If Sunday belonged to Dipika Pallikal, who grabbed the first-ever individual women's squash medal in Asian Games, Monday was reserved for Saurav Ghosal, who secured his first-ever Asian Games final.
Saurav Ghosal returns to Malaysia's Ong Beng Hee during their semi-final at the Incheon Asian Games yesterday. Pic/PTI
Should he win the final, where he is the favourite against Kuwaiti, Abdullah Al-Muzayen, ranked No 44 in the world, Ghosal, now World No 16, will become India's first-ever squash gold medallist at Asian Games. But then no Indian has reached the final either.
Third time lucky?
In the semi-final Ghosal, winner of individual bronze medals in 2006 and 2010 and a team bronze in 2010, executed a very efficient demolition of two-time Asian Games (2002 and 2006) champion and former World No 7 Ong Beng Hee of Malaysia 11-9, 11-4, 11-4 in just 45 minutes.
A little earlier, Dipika Pallikal settled for bronze, losing to long-time World No 1 Malaysian, Nicol Ann David, who took less than 25 minutes to outclass the Indian 4-11, 4-11, 5-11.
Speaking about his entry into the final, Ghosal said, "This is new territory for me. I have made the semi-finals before (twice) but never the final.
But he (Beng Hee) has been there and done it (winner in 2002 and 2006). He is a very good player. I was confident, but he has a great record and he has beaten me in the past. We have played a few times in Asia, but not much on PSA circuit. Nothing is sure till you win."
Elaborating on Indian squash and his own career, Ghosal, who lost a bronze play-off at the Commonwealth Games this year, said, "This is the Golden Era of Indian squash.
We had a Commonwealth Games gold (Dipika Pallikal and Joshana Chinappa in women's doubles) and I was first to win a medal in Asian Games in 2006 and did so again in 2010.
"Now getting to the final and Dipika winning a bronze. Indian squash is looking up but we need more youngsters and more to come up. I am not saying no one is coming but we need more and more."
Al-Muzayen, meanwhile, beat Hong Kong's Lee Ho Yin 6-11, 11-8, 4-11, 11-6, 11-8.
The number of bronze medals Ghosal has won at the Asiad (one in 2006 & two in 2010)