Nicol David on course for a record fifth title as team-mate Sivasangari joins her in last four at the Asian Games
By Kng Zheng Guan and Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Correspondents
It’s team Malaysia with the loudest roar as the men and women’s individual events deal out the top four finishers at the Asian Games. Games debutant S. Sivasangari certainly had a match to remember as she claimed her biggest career scalp by knocking out world number 11 and second seed Annie Au of Hong Kong in the women’s quarter-final at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Friday. The 19-year-old, who is ranked number 40 in the world, had earned a chance to compete in the individual event by virtue of winning the Malaysian national title in July.
The Kedahan certainly justified the faith in her as she played true to form in stunning the much fancied Annie 11-9, 11-13, 11-5, 3-11, 11-5.
“I still can’t believe that I’ve managed to produce a win over Annie. She’s the second seed in the tournament and ranked as high as number 11 in the world,” said a jubilant Sivasangari.
“I went on court just looking to play my best squash, which I did and I’m just so happy to get through to the semi-finals in my first Asian Games. It’s really a big thing getting through into the top four but now I have to reset and focus again because I have another big match tomorrow,” added Sivasangari.
The Malaysian number two will go on to face India’s world number 16 Joshna Chinappa, who eased past Hong Kong’s Joey Chan 11-5, 12-10, 5-11, 12-10, in the semi-finals. Sivasangari’s fine run means Malaysia will also keep up their excellent record of producing two individual medallists for the fifth straight Games.
Earlier, eight-time world champion Nicol David stayed on track for a record fifth Asian Games individual gold after she outclassed Japanese teenager Satomi Watanabe 11-6, 11-4, 11-3.
“It’s great to be in the semi-finals and I’m very happy with the way I played,” said Nicol.
“For me right now I’m just looking to get a good rest and have a good recovery so that I’ll be ready for my next match. I’ve done all my training and it’s really just down to me to focus and to put my game together.”
The world number nine, who is competing in her sixth Games, goes on to meet India’s world number 19 Dipika Pallikal for a place in the final. Dipika had ended the challenge of Japan’s Misaki Kobayashi, playing possibly her last individual event, with a convincing 11-5, 11-6, 11-8 win.
With the Malaysian women on fire, their male counterparts also didn’t fare too shabby at all as world number 40 Nafiizwan Adnan also put up a dogged performance to upset the formbooks. The Commonwealth Games bronze medallist had a tough match-up in the last eight against joint third-fourth seed Abdulla Al-Tamimi of Qatar who is fresh from winning the Malaysian Open in July.
The joint fifth-eighth seeded Nafiizwan, fondly known as the Komodo, however played his heart out as he scored an incredible 11-9, 12-10, 9-11, 5-11, 11-9 win over Tamimi.
“It was really a tough fight but it’s worth it because at least there will be a medal for Malaysia,” said Nafiizwan.
“I feel awesome and very glad to win today and contributing a medal to my beloved country, especially in this special “Merdeka” (independence) month. It was a tough match and now, I am looking forward to a good rest this evening and hopefully tomorrow, I’ll do even better than today.”
The Terengganu-born lad goes on to meet world number 19 and second seed Max Lee of Hong Kong, who had no trouble dispatching Kuwait’s Ammar Altamimi 11-5, 11-4, 11-7 in the final match of the evening, in the last four.
There were no upsets in the other half of the draw as top seed Saurav Ghosal of India overcame a first game deficit before powering past compatriot and best friend Harinderpal Sandhu 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-7. The world number 12, who is seeking a first individual gold medal, takes on Hong Kong’s world number 21 Leo Au, who stopped Malaysia’s Ivan Yuen 11-2, 11-7, 11-4, next.
Quarter Finals :
Saurav Ghosal (IND) bt Harinder Pal Sandhu (IND) 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-7
Leo Au (HKG) bt Ivan Yuen (MAS) 11-2, 11-7, 11-4
Nafiizwan Adnan (MAS) bt Abdulla Al Tamimi (QAT) 11-9, 12-10, 9-11, 5-11, 11-9
Max Lee (HKG) bt Ammar Altamimi (KUW) 11-5, 11-4, 11-7
Nicol David (MAS) bt Satomi Watanabe (JPN) 11-6, 11-4, 11-3
Dipikal Pallikal Karthik (IND) bt Misaki Kobayashi (JPN) 11-5, 11-6, 11-8
Joshana Chinappa (IND) bt Joey Chan (HKG) 11-5, 12-10, 5-11, 12-10
Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) bt Annie Au (HKG) 11-9, 11-13, 11-5, 3-11, 11-5
Pictures by INASGOC, Aulia Dyan, Alex Wan