HANGZHOU: The Indian team humbled defending champions Malaysia 2-0 to reach the final of the men's squash event after the seasoned Saurav Ghosal and Abhay Singh registered identical wins at the Asian Games here on Friday.
India, thus, set up a marquee gold medal clash with Pakistan, against whom they lost in the pool stage and will seek revenge heading into the final. Abhay Singh started the proceedings for India on a positive note, securing a 3-1 (11-3 12-10 9-11 11-6) win over Muhammad Addeen Idrakie Bin Bahtiar in the opening match. He took 57 minutes to ward off the challenge of Bin Bahtiar.
The experienced Ghosal then got the better of Eain Yow NG 3-1 (11-8 11-6 12-10 11-3) in 69 minutes to wrap up the second semifinal in favour of India.
Mahesh Mangaonkar was not required to play his match against Mohammad Syafiq Bin Mohd Kamal. The Indian men had settled for the bronze medal in the last edition of the Games in Indonesia.
Ghosal said contrary to the final result, it was a tough outing against the Malaysians.
"It was a very, very tough match. Malaysia are a top quality team and all their players are such good professionals," he said.
"Abhay Singh going on first produced a very professional clinical performance, which is exactly what we asked him to do. He did that really well for the most part and gave us the 1-0 lead in the tie," he said.
Ghosal termed his contest against Eain Yow NG as a 50-50 match and was happy to come out triumphant.
"Then me going on against Eain Yow NG, it was a 50/50 match. He's a top-quality player and he showed what a fighter he is, with the way he came back in the third game. Throughout the entire match, there were no easy phases. It was hard work all through from point one to the last point," the ace Indian squash player said. I'm just happy that I was able to close it out and give us an opportunity to play the final tomorrow and hopefully, we will play well and win."
Ghosal said India will have to produce a team effort to outwit Pakistan.
"We probably didn't play as well as we possibly can as a team, but that takes nothing away from them. You have to give Pakistan credit for the way they have played this entire week. They've been very good and won all their matches. They are flying high and playing really well," he said.
"There's no doubt that we will have to come out as a team and play really, really well and win. They're small, fine details at this level (and they) make the difference between winning and losing. Hopefully we'll be on the right side of those details tomorrow," Ghosal added.
Earlier, the Indian women's squash team signed off with a bronze medal after going down fighting to Hong Kong in the semifinals of the continental showpiece.
Joshna was the only Indian who won her match as she defeated world number 24 Tze Lok Ho 3-2 (7-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-6, 11-8) to level the tie after Tanvi went down meekly (3-0) to Sin Yuk Chan in the opener.
"Sometimes it's just about hanging in there and fighting through. There were moments when that's exactly what I did. I didn't think too much about having a plan or a strategy. I knew today no matter what happened I had to keep fighting through," Joshna said.
Playing against a high-ranked and experienced opponent in Lee Ka Yi, the 15-year-old Anahat then tried her best but was undone by her inexperience.
The teenager saved eight match points as she went from 10-2 to 10-10 in the third game but eventually lost the final (0-3) 8-11, 7-11, 10-12 and the tie. India had finished with a silver in the previous edition.
They had lost to Hong Kong in the final at the 2018 Jakarta Games.
"It was 1-1 (in matches) and my match was a really important match, and if we had won that we would have gone to the finals. I feel like it could have gone better and I could have won it. They were really pushing me and hoping I would win the match and we would get a better medal," Anahat said.
Joshna, who was a part of the silver-winning side in 2018, was left a "little disappointed that they couldn't get over the finish line".
"We came in and we gave our best I'm just happy to have that fighting spirit on court. That's who I am as a player. I was really happy I could play at a big stage for my country. Playing for India always brings out the best in me. I'm just glad I could do it today," she said.