That India would reach the knock-out stage (last four) of the Squash World Cup was a no-brainer, but whether it would finish on the top of Group-B was the question on everybody’s minds.
The host, seeded second, answered it in a strong fashion, grinding out a tough 3-1 (17-11 total points calculated from all their group matches of both teams) win over Japan, the third seed, at the Express Avenue Mall here on Thursday. India will take on Malaysia in the semifinal, while Japan will clash with Egypt in the last four.
Earlier in the day, Egypt edged out Malaysia 3-1 in the Group-A tie, and expectedly topped the group. The defending champion didn’t have it easy as the tie went down the wire.
The star of the day’s triumph for India was arguably Joshna Chinappa. The Indian, ranked 72 in the world, played against the odds to upset World No.18 Satomi Watanabe to level the tie, after Abhay Singh went down tamely to Tomotaka Endo in the first.
In the first couple of games, it appeared Satomi as the better player for the manner she hit winners, especially with her backcourt drops.
Joshna didn’t give up, engaged the Japanese in long rallies to unleash either a deceptive backhand drop or a fierce forehand winner from both front and back court.
Saurav Ghosal did nothing to negate the brilliant show by Joshna. The highest world-ranked player in the World Cup here at 17, Ghosal put his best foot forward in the fourth rubber to effectively seal the tie and place India in the last four. But it was far from easy. Ryonusuke Tsukue, ranked 63, was in no mood to go down easily. He was exceptional in defence, putting the Indian under so much pressure. But Ghosal stayed firm to win in five games.
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