India’s Harinder Pal Sandhu toughed it out against sixth seeded Abdulla Al-Tamimi of Qatar to secure a confidence-building five-game win and enter the quarterfinal of the 19th Asian Individual Squash Championship on Thursday.

After being completely outplayed in the first game at 4-11, no one would have given Harinder a chance against the World No. 37. “I played a lot of loose balls in the first game and he was hitting the ball freely wherever he wanted. From there, I needed a lot of mental courage to get back into the match,” Harinder said.

Mid game advice from national coach Achraf El Karagui brought about a change to his fortunes. “Achraf just told me to hit the ball and not settle for anything less. He wanted Abdulla to work for his winners. He noted that I was soft on the ball and wanted me to change,” the former national champion revealed.

Read: Asian Squash Championship matches shifted to Indian Squash Academy after damage in court

He soon started played a lot more aggressively. He focussed more on his backhand game to not allow his opponent move freely. He kept hitting the backhands deeper and Al-Tamini began wearing out. The vociferous support from the gallery also pushed him to fight harder, he said.

In the end, the 28-year-old Indian prevailed 4-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6 in 59 minutes. He is likely to face the top seed Max Lee in the quarterfinals.

A former national champion, Harinder always had the calibre. But injuries—a hamstring rupture in Feb 2016 and a Grade 1 tear in the lower back—stalled his progress. The World No. 95 hadn’t had a big win under his name ever since making a return early this month. Understandably, he considered the win on Thursday as his best in the last one and half years. “It is definitely a special win. I have never been bad. Just couldn’t be consistent because of the injuries. This was a good win for me,” Harinder, who is aiming to reach the top 50 this year, said.

Vikram Malhotra too reached the quarterfinal of the Championship with a no-fuss 11-4, 11-1, 11-9 victory over Malaysia’s Muhammad Addeen Idrakie.

Joshna Chinappa too made it to the quarterfinal with a good win over Jemyca Aribado. Joshna was troubled at times by the Filipino, and a springy flooring hampered her concentration a wee bit, but she played most of the points well against her inexperienced opponent to secure her last eight spot.

Meanwhile, teen stars Sunayna Kuruvilla and Velavan Senthilkumar exited the tournament with tough losses. 

Against sixth seed Tong Tsz Wing of Hong Kong, reigning national U-19 champion Sunayna couldn’t replicate the previous day’s form. She lost 6-11, 4-11, 6-11.

Velavan Senthilkumar had a forgettable day and caved in meekly against seventh seed Ivan Yuen. It took the Malaysian just 22 minutes to dismantle the Indian challenge with quick points. The scoreline read a dismal 1-11, 1-11, 8-11 for the British Junior U-19 champion.


The results

Men: (pre-quarterfinal):   Saurav Ghosal (Ind) (2) bt Mohammad Alsarraj (Jor) (16) 11-8, 11-5, 11-2; Max Lee (HK) (1) bt Wang Chi Him (HK) (13) 11-3, 11-6, 11-6; Mohd Nafizwan (Mal) (3) bt Ahmad Alsaraj (Jordan) 11-3, 11-2, 11-1 (17m); Leo Au (HK) (5) bt Ng Eain Yow (Mal) (14) 11-7, 14-12, 11-7 (40m); Yuen Chee Wern (Mal)(7) bt Velavan Senthilkumar (Ind) 11-1, 11-1, 11-8 (22 m); Yip Tsz Fung (HK) (4) bt Mahesh Mangaonkar (Ind) (11) 12-10, 8-11, 11-8, 11-3 (53 m); Harinder Pal Sandhu (Ind) (15) bt Abdulla Al-Tamimi (Qat) (6) 4-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6 (59 m); Vikram Malhotra (Ind) (10) bt Muhamman Addeen Idraikie (Mal) 11-1, 11-4, 11-9 (27 m)

Women: Dipika Pallikal Karthik (Ind) (4) bt Lee Andrea Jia Qi (Mal) (10) 14-12, 11-5, 11-5; Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) (16) bt Rachel Mae Arnold (Mas) (8) 10-12, 11-7, 5-11, 11-5, 11-4 (48 mn); Liu Tsz Ling (HK) (5) bt Eum Hwayeong (Kor) 11-6, 11-6, 11-4 (23 m); Tong Tsz Wing (HK) bt Sunayna Kuruvilla (Ind) 11-6, 11-4, 11-6 (32m); Misaki Kobayashi (Jpn) (7) bt Aifa Azman (Mal) 11-6, 12-10, 2-11, 11-4 (30 m); Annie Au (HK) (1) bt Lee Jihyun (Kor) 11-3, 11-5, 11-3 (18 m); Joey Chan (HK) (3) bt Foo Zoe Yuk Han (Mal) (11) 11-6, 11-7, 11-6 (36 m); Joshna Chinappa (Ind) (2) bt Jemyca Aribado (Phil) (13) 11-7, 11-9, 11-7 (31 m)