Unheralded Vikram Malhotra was the toast of the Indian camp as the 28-year-old made it into the men’s singles pre-quarterfinals in squash of the XXI Commonwealth Games at the Oxenford studios here on Thursday.
The Mumbai player had a tough day as he had to turn out in two matches, but that did not stop him from giving his best and making the last 16 even as his better known team-mates Sourav Ghosal and Harinder Pal Sandhu fell by the wayside, losing their round of 32 matches.
It also turned out to be a rewarding outing for Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal in the women’s singles, as both the Indians after gaining a first round bye got to the pre-quarterfinals with ease.
Malhotra pitted against Manda Chilambwe (Zambia) required only 23 minutes before emerging winner with a straight set victory (11-6, 11-5, 11-2) before opening the exit door for Xavier Koenig (Mauritius) 11-4, 11-3, 11-0 in style and in just nine minutes. He will run into Nick Matthew on Friday morning.
Ghosal was a trifle unlucky as he failed to hold a 2-0 lead against Jamaican Chris Bennie and then lost in what proved to be a cliffhanger. The Indian No. 1 was up 6-3 in the third after pocketing the first two sets at 11-5, 11-7 and looked on course to make the next grade. However, with the Jamaican starting to counter-attack at this stage, the Indian ran out of both breath and ideas before succumbing at 8-11, 9-11, 10-12 through the next three sets in an hour and six minutes.
Harinder had begun well with a 11-3, 11-13, 11-6, 11-8 win against Cameron Staford (Cayman Islands) in his first outing but was nowhere in the picture against Ivan Yuen (Malaysia) in the second, losing the tie outrightly at 11-4, 11-3, 11-0 in a mere nine minutes.
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In the women’s singles, Chinappa, the long-standing singles winner in the country, proved her mettle as she carved out a positive 11-3, 11-7, 11-2 verdict over Lynette Vai (Papua New Guinea) in 13 minutes while her doubles partner required just two more minute to polish off the challenge of Charlotte Knaggs (Trinidad & Tobago) 11-6, 11-5, 11-5.