Dipika Pallikal moved into the semifinals of the San Francisco Open with a defeat of Olivia Blatchford 13-11, 11-6, 11-9.
Dipika has thus secured two wins over seeded players in as many days after having beaten fourth-seed Emily Whitlock in the first round. It would be her biggest PSA World Tour semifinal since 2014.
Dipika was in fine form in her match against Whitlock on Wednesday and continued in the same vein against her American rival.
She had lost to Blatchford in the first round of the same event in 2015.
In the first game, the Indian came up with a composed display and well-structured rallies to go four game-balls up before the sixth seed fought back. Blatchford came into her own as she fought for every point and managed to level the scores. However, after she had overturned another game-ball in the tie-break, the U.S. No. 2 tinned an attempted volley drop under pressure from Dipika to go a game down.
It was one-way traffic in the second as Dipika dominated and quickly doubled her advantage, while a tightly-contested third game saw the Indian go match-ball up when a contentious no-let decision was given against Blatchford to bring an end to the 35-minute match.
‘Things falling in place’
After some unimpressive results in the summer, things were falling in place for Dipika, she said, for which she credited national coach Ashraf el Karagui. “I’ve really worked hard this summer, I didn’t get the results I wanted in China and Hong Kong and I just wanted to come here, play well and enjoy myself. Things are finally falling in place and we’ve got Ashraf el Karagui who has joined us as a national coach in India,” Dipika was quoted as saying by the PSA World Tour website.
“He’s been there for the last year, so things are picking up and I feel like I’m playing a lot better and I’m a lot more composed. He’s been a very big influence in both [Wednesday’s] and [Thursday’s] wins and I'm just glad that I could do it for him because he has worked really hard for me,” she said.
Dipika plays Malaysia’s eight-time world champion and No. 2 seed Nicol David, who edged out England’s Victoria Lust, in the semifinal on Friday.
India’s national coach Cyrus Poncha was all praise for Pallikal and said her hard work at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai in the past few weeks was paying dividends. “She has been working hard over the past few weeks with coach Ashraf at the [Indian Squash Academy] and it’s paying dividends. Her next match is against the legend Nicol David. She has to give it her best shot,” he said.
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