India No. 1 Dipika Pallikal and Asian Games gold medallist Harinder Pal Sandhu made it a memorable day for India at the third leg of the JSW Indian Squash Challenger Circuit 2014 in Mumbai. This is the first WSA title of the year for the golden girl of Indian squash while Sandhu captured his second title of the circuit after annexing the Jaipur crown two weeks back.
The first two legs of the event were held in Jaipur and Mumbai and Egypt’s World No. 64 Nouran El Torky had shown a lot of confidence and poise to clinch the women’s title in both the events in the absence of Dipika. Unsurprisingly the final of the third leg featured Nouran El Torky and World No. 12 Dipika Pallikal.
Dipika had reached just one WSA final this year at the Texas Open. For the Commonwealth Games doubles gold medallist Dipika Pallikal, this was the perfect place to win a title as she had the support of the home crowd.
Tight first game
Dipika’s opponent, was unfazed despite the big gap in their rankings. Dipika began confidently with a 4-1 lead but the 21-year-old Egyptian clawed her way back to make it 4-5. A flurry of errors swung the momentum into the Egyptian’s favour who even held a game ball at 10-9. But Dipika’s rich experience came into play and she squeezed out the first game 14-12 with a clever dropshot.
Dipika shows resilience in second game
El Torky started showing her court craft in the second game to put the pressure on the India No. 1. Slowly she built her own run of points to lead 5-2. Dipika showed great resilience and stamina to come back and level the game at 7-7. After a tight battle, the Chennai girl managed to seal the second game 12-10.
Dipika stamps her class
The spirited Egyptian didn’t give up and once again raced away to a 6-3 lead in the third game. However, errors let her down and Dipika capitalised on it to win the title 14-12, 12-10, 11-7. Dipika Pallikal’s last tour title had come one year back at the Macau Open and this was a welcome return .
Sandhu wins second title of the circuit
The men’s final too was an India versus Egypt affair as the India No. 3 Harinder Pal Sandhu battled it out with World No. 140 Shehab Essam Hosny. Sandhu who ended a five-year title drought at Jaipur two weeks back exhibited amazing fighting spirit to come back from a deficit in the first game to wrap up the match in straight games.
Sandhu comes storming back to take the lead
An error-prone Sandhu was fast losing his grip on the first game as he went down 1-7. But a couple of mistakes at crucial junctures from Hosny opened the door for the Indian and he didn’t need another chance. Playing with lightning speed and aggression the Indian flummoxed his opponent to level at 8-8 and then edge ahead to 11-9.
Sandhu plays with confidence to win in 3
With the first game safely in pocket, the 25-year-old who won the Asian Games team event gold medal started displaying his confident form. He inched ahead to 5-2 and even though the Egyptian made it 7-7, Sandhu won four points on the trot to close out the second game 11-7.
The third game began the same way with the Indian racing away to 5-1 and the Egyptian fighting back briefly to make it 7-9. But the Chandigarh native took it up a notch to finish with a scoreline of 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 in 50 minutes.
So with another set of Indians at the winners podium, this is turning out to be a good year for Indian squash. The objective of holding the Indian Squash challenger has also been met with the Indian squash players getting exposure and wins at home. Following have been the Winners of the three legs of the Indian Squash Challenger Circuit:
First Leg (Men): Harinder Pal Sandhu
First Leg (Ladies): Nouran El Torky
Second Leg (Men): Mahesh Mangaonkar
Second Leg (Women): Nouran El Torky
Third Leg (Men): Harinder Pal Sandhu
Third Leg (Women): Dipika Pallikal