Of determination and Dipika

Crowning glory...Mohammed EL Shorbagy of Egypt and Dipika Pallikal of India with their trophies.-S. PATRONOBISH

Dipika Pallikal proves her mettle in the Indian Challenger by winning her maiden WISPA crown in Kolkata. Amitabha Das Sharma reports.

Having shown enough of her precocious talent in the age-group events, Dipika Pallikal signalled her entry into the big league of the professional circuit by winning her first WISPA (Women's International Squash Players' Association) title. And the 217-year-old Calcutta Racket Club, one of the oldest squash clubs in the world, was perhaps the right venue for the rising Indian star to showcase her talent.

While the WISPA event, with a prize money of $8000, saw an Indian being crowned the champion, the much bigger men's five-star PSA tournament — prize money $50,000 — witnessed Saurav Ghosal of India making the semifinals.

India's hopes in both the PSA and WISPA events rested on the wards of the ICL-TNSRA Squash Academy in Chennai — Saurav, Dipika and Joshna Chinappa. And their performance in Kolkata augurs well for India in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Though the talented Egyptian Mohamed El Shorbagy won the men's title, Saurav Ghosal was the one who pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament. He defeated the top-seed and World No. 13, Adrian Grant of England on way to the semifinals.

In the semifinals a visibly tired Saurav went down fighting to Shorbagy, who went on to claim his maiden PSA title.

The men's main draw had only two Indians. Saurav, with a career-best world ranking of 29, got an automatic entry, while Siddharth Suchde received a wildcard. While Siddharth crashed out in the first round, Saurav, seeded No. 8, began with a victory against the unseeded Aaron Frankcomb of Australia.

Saurav Ghosal is making rapid strides in the PSA circuit.-V. GANESAN

Defeating Grant in the quarterfinals gave Saurav's credentials in the professional circuit a big boost. Playing a brilliant all-court game, he showed a lot of grit and determination as he clawed back from a hopeless position to win the second game after a marathon battle. The Indian lost the opening game but recovered well to take the second 15-13. This gave Saurav the confidence and it was only a matter of time before the Indian ran away with the next two games — 11-5 and 11-7 — to pull off one of the biggest wins of his career.

The WISPA Indian Challenger had a host of Indians, but the two players who have been performing consistently well in the international circuit, Dipika and Joshna, were the ones to carry the nation's challenge forward. Playing with determination, Dipika, enjoying her career-best world ranking of 43, showed the ability to raise the level of her performance whenever the situation demanded. Her initiative paid off in the end.

Dipika's doubles partner Joshna was not fortunate enough as she fell to second-seeded Emma Beddoes of England.

In the quarterfinals Joshna prevailed over unseeded Gaby Schmohl of Switzerland, while fourth-seeded Dipika had it easy against compatriot and fifth-seeded Anaka Alankamony. Dipika's best came in the semifinals where she dismissed the top-seed and World No. 30 Sharon Wee of Malaysia.

In the final, Dipika had a far easier time as she battled determinedly for 55 minutes to overcome Emma Beddoes 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-6.

The Results

Men's (PSA) final: 3-Mohamed El Shorbagy (Egypt) bt 7-Tarek Momen (Egypt) 11-7, 3-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-8.

Semifinals: Shorbagy bt 8-Saurav Ghosal (India) 5-11, 11-9, 11-3, 14-12; Tarek Momen bt 2-Cameron Pilley (Australia) 11-13, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6.

Women's (WISPA) final: 4-Dipika Pallikal (India) bt 2-Emma Beddoes (England) 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-6.

Semifinals: Dipika Pallikal bt 1-Sharon Wee (Malaysia) 8-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9; Emma Beddoes bt 3-Joshna Chinappa (India) 11-7, 11-4, 11-8.