India ejects Nicol David-led Malaysian team while new champion to be crowned in men’s
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
Hong Kong will be in a good position to hunt for more gold as both their men and women’s teams won their semi-final ties. Having won the men’s individual gold through Leo Au a few days ago, the top seeded men and second seeded women’s teams will start as favourites in both the finals tomorrow. The men will take on Malaysia and whoever wins, it will be their first team title. In the women’s final, Hong Kong will face India, who shocked defending champions Malaysia.
2014 silver medallists India reversed the results of the previous final as they turned the tables on favourites Malaysia in the semi-finals of the Asian Games women’s team event. The Indian duo of Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal both played immaculately and won their matches to dethrone the defending champions.
Having only won her first match against Nicol David after 15 attempts back in April this year, India’s Joshna Chinappa repeated her feat in the opening tie. It was no easy feat however, as the 31-year old was stretched for over an hour by the eight-time world champion, who today was voted by fans as PSA’s Squash GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).
After just losing out the first two games in very close scores 12-10 and 11-9, Nicol came back strongly to take the third 11-6 and narrowly won the fourth 12-10 to force the decider, which Joshna manages to squeeze home to give the Indians the lead.
It was all down to Dipika Pallikal Karthik to take the Indians into the final again and she did this with such conviction, winning 3-0 in just 25 minutes against Low Wee Wern, who is playing her first team event since her long term injury absence.
“The Indian team, they played very well today. We just lost to a stronger team today. We have a good team and it’s just unfortunate that they were better today. Winning a medal here is still something to be proud of. We came and we fought hard. I don’t think any of us would go into the court not giving our best and that’s the main thing,” said Nicol after her team’s loss.
India’s opponents tomorrow will be top seeds Hong Kong, who were 2-0 winners against semi-final debutants Japan. The left-handed pair of Annie Au and Joey Chan sealed the win for the 2014 bronze medallists.
Annie Au saw off the challenge of youngster Satomi Watanabe in four games while Joey Chan beat seasoned campaigner Misaki Kobayashi in an identical score.
Despite the loss, Japan captain Misaki Kobayashi is thrilled and satisfied with her team’s performance,
“This is my 3rd Asian Games and it means a lot to me to go home with a bronze medal as this is one of my last tournaments as a full time professional player.
Four years ago we lost out a semi-final place to Korea very closely, so we’ve waited for this moment for a long time. Realistically there’s still a gap between us and the rest of top3 countries. So I think we’ve done our best for now,” said Misaki afterwards.
In the men’s first semi-final, individual finalists Max Lee and Leo Au sealed the place for the former British colony. Max Lee gave his team a winning start when he upset higher ranked Saurav Ghosal in straight games.
Hong Kong number two and world number 20 Leo Au then sealed the tie for Hong Kong with a hard fought 3-1 win over a stubborn Harinder Pal Sandhu. The individual gold medallist later said:
“Max and myself played a tough individual final. We’re glad we managed to have been able to take turns to rest the last two days, which helped us recover. Hopefully, we’ll both be at our best again tomorrow and go for another gold.”
Malaysia meanwhile, followed up with their win over India yesterday with a 2-0 win over Pakistan. Nafiizwan Adnan, who won bronze in the individual event, was a class above his opponent Tayyab Aslam, winning 3-0 in 35 minutes.
“It’s always special playing in these team events and it’s great to do this on our national day. Tomorrow, we will try our very best to go one step better. This should be my last Asian Games, so it’s now or never”, Nafiizwan said later.
The job was left for Asian Games debutant Ng Eain Yow to seal the deal and he did not disappoint. Despite starting off the blocks slower than his opponent Ahmad Israr, Eain Yow bounced back from a one game deficit to take the next three games.
“Really happy to have won that and close the tie out. He had nothing to lose and was firing everything in, but I just stuck to my game and made it tough for him, It was a tough one but really happy to get Malaysia through”, said a relieved and delighted Eain Yow.
Having won the silver medal twice in 2010 and 2014, Malaysia will hoping for a different outcome in tomorrow’s final.
HONG KONG bt INDIA 2-0
Max Lee bt Saurav Ghosal 11-7, 11-9, 13-11 (41m)
Leo Au bt Harinder Pal Sandhu 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 11-3 (45m)
MALAYSIA bt PAKISTAN 2-0
Nafiizwan Adnan bt Tayyab Aslam 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 (35m)
Ng Eain Yow bt Ahmad Israr 7-11, 11-8, 16-14, 11-6 (41m)
INDIA bt MALAYSIA
Joshna Chinappa bt Nicol David 12-10, 11-9, 6-11, 10-12, 11-9 (66m)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik bt Low Wee Wern 11-2, 11-9, 11-7 (25m)
HONG KONG bt JAPAN
Annie Au bt Satomi Watanabe 11-6, 11-5, 12-14, 11-9 (54m)
Joey Chan bt Misaki Kobayashi 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-1 (32m)
Pictures by Squash Rackets Federation India, Japan Squash Association