New Delhi: He goes into the Asian Games as the top seed but Saurav Ghosal is a tad wary of the threat posed by rivals from Pakistan even though the Asia number one feels it is his best chance to convert a couple of singles bronze from the last two editions to gold in Incheon.
Expectations from squash are high after the players' surprise success in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games where Dipika Pallikal and Joshana Chinappa won the women's doubles gold.
Given a bye in the first round, Ghosal needs to win four matches to realise his gold dream. It looks rather straightforward on paper but the world number 16 says he will have to be at his best to overcome rivals from Pakistan, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
"It is fair to say that this is my best chance for winning the gold. I am a much better player than I was four years ago.
Having said that, I see every match to be tough," Ghosal told PTI from Chennai ahead of his departure for Incheon tonight.
The 28-year-old had beaten compatriots Ritwik Bhattacharya and Siddharth Suchde in the quarterfinals respectively at Doha and Guangzhou to assure a double bronze from a controversial draw pitting Indians in the same half.
This time Ghosal is expected to meet 20-year-old Pakistani Nasir Iqbal in the quarterfinals on September 21 and the Kolkata player reckons it will be his first big test.
Iqbal may be ranked 26 places lower than the experienced Indian but Pakistanis are known to punch above their weight while representing their country.
"All the players are ranked lower than me but it doesn't mean they are not going to come hard at me. Unlike the pro tour, it (Asian Games) is a one-off tournament and everyone is working hard. You just need to play well for three-four matches to win a medal. So anyone can be dangerous. I will really have to be at my best against Nasir and whoever else I face later," he said.
The nimble-footed Indian will also have to overcome a minor setback in his Games preparation. He suffered an Achilles injury during his second round Hong Kong Open match against Englishman Peter Barker on August 31, forcing him to retire mid-way.
"Luckily the tendon was not damaged, the surrounding area got strained. I just need to strengthen the area before pushing properly. I felt okay in the camp in Chennai and the injury should not affect me too much at Incheon," said Ghosal.
His likely semifinal opponent will be 2006 champion and 35th-ranked Ong Beng Hee, who leads Malaysia's challenge in the absence of 2010 singles winner Mohd Azlan Iskandar.
The other half of the draw looks easier with second seed Max Lee of Hong Kong sitting pretty to make the last four.
Ghosal enjoys a 3-0 record aver Lee on the PSA professional tour.
"The draw is not in my control. There is no point thinking about that. I just have to find a way to move through the draw.
The competition is not as tough as the Commonwealth Games but it is still very competitive," stressed Ghosal. Asked about the team's chances, he added: "We won a bronze last time and I strongly feel we can do better than that. It is about being consistent throughout and I think we are capable of even winning gold."
The other members of the team are Harinder Pal Sandhu, Mahesh Mangaonkar and Kush Kumar.