The first World Series event of the new PSA season kicked off with disappointments for Indian squash players. Both Mahesh Mangaonkar and Harinderpal Sandhu bowed out in the qualifying rounds at the PSA $150, 000 Hong Kong Open 2016.
World No. 61 Mangaonkar was up against the World No. 32 Nicolas Mueller in the second round on Monday. But luck did not go his way as he lost 7-11, 10-12, 4-11 in 35 minutes.
Earlier, he had beaten local hope Henry Leung, ranked 218 places below the Indian. Even though Mangaonkar did lose the opening game, he bounced back in style to beat Leung, 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-5 in 55 minutes.
Meanwhile, National Squash Championships runner-up Sandhu lost a hard-fought first round qualifying match on Sunday. The 84th ranked Indian went down fighting 6-11, 11-4, 11-4, 5-11, 2-11 to Mueller in a 50-minute battle.
Top Indian trio in the main draw
The Indian challenge in the main draw will be led by the top trio of Saurav Ghosal, Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa. While Joshna has her match today, the other two start on Wednesday. National Championship runner-up Chinappa has a comparatively easy opener and faces qualifier Nadine Shahin of Egypt.
It’s tougher for the rest. Pallikal is up against the World No. 6 Camille Serme of France who was a quarter-finalist at this tournament last year. Having said that, Dipika too has been in superb form coming into this event.
After capturing the Nationals title for the second time in her career, she reached back-to-back finals at the Victorian Open and the Australian Open, winning the latter. The 24-year-old will surely be looking to build on that confidence at Hong Kong.
Ghosal also has an uphill task as he squares off against the former World No. 1 Ramy Ashour in the first round. The 30-year-old returned to competition after a two-and-a-half month hiatus due to an ankle injury and scooped up his 11th Nationals title in July.
The Indian team has come to this tournament straight from the WSF World International Doubles in Darwin, Australia where they had an unprecedented haul of three medals. While Pallikal and Ghosal picked up the silver in mixed doubles, Chinappa and Sandhu got a bronze. In women’s doubles, the two Indian girls combined for a bronze medal.