Joshna jolts Nicol, powers India to final

For Indian men, the defending champions, it will be only a bronze.

Joshna Chinappa defeated Nicol David as India beat Malaysia 2-0 in the women's team semifinals to assure itself of at least a silver.   -  PTI

Joshna Chinappa did a smart thing when she took on Nicol David at the Asian Games here on Friday. She removed all traces of Thursday’s painful match against Hong Kong’s Annie Au from her head and that freed her mind in the women’s team semifinal against defending champion Malaysia.

Despite the Chennai-based World No. 16 pulling off her maiden win against Nicol in the El Gouna tournament in Egypt in April, not many gave her a chance against the former eight-time World champion in the opening singles. But Joshna did not complicate herself with such things.

FOLLOW: LIVE: Asian Games 2018 — Day 13

“I just wanted to be myself and play good squash, that makes me relax and focus on my plan. I just wanted to enjoy myself a little bit instead of putting pressure on myself as I did in previous matches,” said Joshna after shocking Nicol, who had won the women’s singles title here a few days ago, 12-10, 11-9, 6-11, 10-12, 11-9.

A little later, Dipika Pallikal produced a comfortable 11-2, 11-9, 11-7 victory over Wee Wern Low as India shocked Malaysia 2-0 and entered its second straight team final after the silver-medal show in Incheon.

Fighting back

Joshna, the world’s highest ranked Indian, was down 8-10 in the opening game against World No. 8 Nicol but she fought back and won the first two games.

Nicol, the best woman squash player ever, raced to a 7-2 lead with some deceptive play to take the third game and the close fourth game too. The scores ran neck and neck in the decider, but Joshua hung on to win the 66-minute battle.

After bringing an unexpected 1-0 lead in the three-match series, Joshna told her teammate Dipika, “please don’t let my running go waste.”

Dipika did not allow Wee Wern to settle down and won in just 25 minutes. But the Indian said the job was not easy.

“Trust me, it wasn’t. She has been out of the circuit for a very long time so my plan was to try and keep up the pressure as hard as possible from point one to the last,” the World No. 19 said.

“I knew she was going to come back stronger if I let her go, fortunately, a lot of things went my way, a lot of shots were perfect.”

Men fail to impress

However, the women’s feat did not inspire the Indian men, the defending champions, as they went down to Hong Kong 2-0 and will have to be content with the bronze.

Sourav Ghosal, Asia’s top-ranked player, lost to Lee Ho Yin 7-11, 9-11, 11-13 while Harinder Pal Sandhu bowed to Au Chun Ming, the singles gold medallist here, 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 3-11.

“Hong Kong is a very strong team, we have to put our special performance to beat them. But things did not go our way,” said the 32-year-old Sourav who was playing his fifth Asian Games.