Asiad squash: India goes down 1-2 to Hong Kong

Men’s and women’s teams to face tough semifinal opponents.

Sunayna Kuruvilla (in blue) competes against Hong Kong's Ho Tze-lok during the women's pool B squash team event.   -  AFP

It was just a league match and India was already assured of the women’s team bronze in squash but there were plenty of tears here on Thursday after the side lost 1-2 to Hong Kong in the Group ‘B’ decider.

The girls probably saw the silver — which they had won at the last Asiad in Incheon — slip through their fingers with that loss for they will now play the formidable Malaysia, which includes former multiple World champion Nicol David, in Friday’s semifinal.

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A win over Hong Kong would have seen India top the group and line up against Group ‘A’ runner-up Japan and make its route to the final a lot easier.

Sunanya Kuruvilla, at 19 the baby of the team, punched above her weight as she defeated a higher ranked Ho Tze Lok 3-2 in a hard-fought second singles but the seasoned Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinnappa lost their singles matches against Hong Kong that saw the team finish runner-up in Group ‘B’.

“We would have obviously liked to play Japan (in the semifinal) but if you want to win the gold, you have to beat the best teams,” said Dipika, who was a star in India’s best-ever Asiad squash show in Incheon four years ago.

“And I don’t think it’s impossible to get past Malaysia because Joshna had beaten Nicol David in a tournament in Egypt in April and I’ve beaten Wee Wern (Malaysia’s No. 2 here) before. For us to win tomorrow will be huge but not impossible.”

Sunanya, the World No. 88, appeared to throw away huge leads as she lost the first two games but a pep talk from cousin Dipika had its effect.

“I think I was pressure early and then Dipika told me to enjoy myself and play. That’s what I did and that really helped me,” said Sunanya after the win against Ho Tze, the World No. 51.

Dipika had lost Ho Ling Chan 11-6, 7-11, 5-11, 9-11 in the opening singles while Joshna, India’s highest ranked player at No. 16, bowed to Annie Wing, the No. 11, 6-11, 6-11, 6-11.

Meanwhile, defending champion Indian men also lost their last league match, 1-2 to Malaysia, and finished second in Group ‘B’. Sourav Ghosal was the only Indian to win his match. The team, which is assured of a bronze, will meet the Group ‘A’ winner Hong Kong in the semifinal.