BHUBANESWAR: When Saurav Ghosal was in the US to take part in the Oracle Netsuite Open (September 23-27) and the US Open (October 1-6), he wasn’t feeling all that well. He had lost in the first round in both events, one of them to World No 1 (Ali Farag). He was also battling a bacterial infection and ‘wasn’t feeling all that great’. Did have a hard few months, mentally wasn’t the easiest,” he remembers.
Less than two months later, in Kuala Lumpur, Ghosal turned around his fortunes to become the first Indian to win the Malaysian Open Championships, a PSA World Tour Bronze Event, on Saturday. It’s been a challenging time for the World No 15 of late. Forget the fact this was his first PSA title in three years (Kolkata in 2018), he has had trouble even going deep in tournaments. Coming into the event, he had reached the semifinal or beyond in only two of his last 19 events dating back to the China Open in 2019.
However, the 35-year-old, who still trains under David Palmer, a former World champion, said it just clicked for him this last week. “Even if I hadn’t the results, I felt I was playing well the last few weeks,” he says. “It’s not like something happened overnight. I didn’t do anything the last week I hadn’t been doing earlier, it’s just that it clicked this time. Been on this journey for a long time. It came together this week.”
And how. Considering he was seeded second, he was one of the favourites but squash is a sport that can turn on a few points. So he did well to win all his four matches in straight games, including the final against the higher-ranked Columbian, Miguel Rodriguez 11-7, 11-8, 13-11. Although his form suggested otherwise, Ghosal says he was quietly confident when he walked onto the glass cage to play his opening match. “I came to Malaysia quietly confident, Even if training with David hasn’t been that easy (because of the pandemic), we do talk regularly. It’s all about incremental stuff that I do in training.”
He hopes that the small increments will also pay rich dividends during the upcoming Asian and World team events in the same city. “I think we have a good team but I’m going to take it by day by day.” It’s the start of a critical 10 months for Ghosal who hopes to be in prime shape for the Asian, Commonwealth and World Games (a multi-discipline event conducted in the year succeeding the Summer Games). “There are three big events all within a span of three months so there will be an element of being clever with my scheduling in the first part of the season.” Right now, though, he’s just happy to be the first Indian to taste success at the Malaysian Open.