Asian Squash Championships: Joshna Chinappa edges Dipika Pallikal to win title
A resilient Joshna Chinappa recovered from a deficit to beat compatriot Dipika Pallikal in the final of the Jio-19th Asian Championship at Chennai on Sunday. In a nail-biting battle, the second-seeded Chinappa edged the fourth-seeded Pallikal, 13-15, 12-10, 11-13, 11-4, 11-4 in 1 hour 18 minutes.
This is the maiden Asian Squash Championships crown for Chinappa.
India failed in its attempt to have double glory as earlier, the second-seeded Saurav Ghosal succumbed to an 11-5, 4-11, 8-11, 7-11 defeat to the top seed Max Lee of Hong Kong in the men’s final that lasted 1 hour 1 minute.
Historic day for India
It was a historic day for India with three players from the country in the title rounds. Back in 1996, Misha Grewal was the first Indian to reach the summit clash of the continental championships.
Chinappa and Pallikal emulated Grewal’s feat 21 years late. As for Ghosal, the 2014 Asian Games individual silver medallist became the first Indian to reach the title round on the men’s side.
Pallikal caused a big upset in the semis
All three of the star Indian squash players had been in impeccable form throughout the tournament. But it was the World No. 22 Pallikal who stole the show in the semi-finals.
The 25-year-old held her nerve for a stunning performance against the top seed and title favourite Annie Au. Punctuating her aggressive play with deceptive shots, the Indian got the better of the World No. 11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9 to advance to the final.
It was Pallikal’s first win over her higher-ranked rival since 2012.
Chinappa had an even more hassle-free outing in the last-four stage and effortlessly prevailed over the sixth seed Tong Tsz Wing of Hong Kong, 11-6, 11-4, 11-8 in just 29 minutes.
In the final, it was the 14th ranked Joshna’s self-belief and confidence that kept her in the hunt even when she did not have the scoreboard going in her favour in the initial stages. The 30-year-old had come in to this tournament on the back of a quarter-final finish at the prestigious World Championships earlier this month.
And that indeed made the difference when the going got tough for the second seed stormed back to take the last two games, dropping just eight points in total.