Asian Games: India Primed for Best Ever Showing in Squash
India managed to win four medals (all bronze) since the racket sport was introduced in the 1998 Asian Games but that modest tally could be matched or even improved in the Incheon edition provided the team plays to its potential.
The Indian squash team spearheaded by men's top seed Saurav Ghosal goes into the Asian Games beginning Saturday with a bright chance of winning medals in all four events on offer. (India's Day 1 Schedule | Full Coverage)
India managed to win four medals (all bronze) since the racket sport was introduced in the 1998 Bangkok Games but that modest tally could be matched or even improved in the Incheon edition provided the team plays to its potential.
The country's highest-ranked player and world no. 12 Dipika Pallikal, too, has said that a medal each in men's team, men's individual, women's team and women's individual is a real possibility.
Two of India's bronze medals have come courtesy 16th ranked Ghosal, who by his own admission may not get a better opportunity to win a gold.
The Asia number one has got a bye in the men's singles first round and will play the winner of the match between China's Jiaqi Chen and Jordan's Alsaraj Ahmad Khaleel Ahmead at the Yeorumul Squash Courts.
"Everything is fine here, the playing area as well as the Games Village. I am all focused on the job at hand. Though it is fair to say that this is my best chance of winning the gold, every opponent will be dangerous. It is a one off competition unlike the professional tour and you only need to maintain a high standard of play for three to four matches for a medal. Rankings don't mean much in an event like the Asian Games," Ghosal said.
The 28-year-old needs to win four matches to win the title and his first test will be in the quarterfinals where he is expected to face 20-year-old Pakistani Nasir Iqbal. His likely semifinal opponent will be 2006 champion and 35th-ranked Ong Beng Hee, who leads Malaysia's challenge in the absence of 2010 singles winner Mohd Azlan Iskandar.
The individuals precede the team championships and Ghosal feels the Indians have it in them to do better than the bronze performance of the last edition in Guangzhou, where the event was added to the Games program.
The other members of the men's team are Harinder Pal Sandhu, Mahesh Mangaonkar and Kush Kumar.
India also look set to secure their first women's singles medal courtesy the controversial draw that pits top players Pallikal and Joshana Chinappa in the same quarter of the draw.
They both need to win their respective openers tomorrow for a showdown in the quarterfinals on Sunday. A medal will be assured in this scenario as losing semifinalists get a bronze each in the continental event.
Pallikal had considered pulling out of the Games, claiming the draw was "manipulated" before changing her mind for the "sake of the country".
It will be a test of character for both professionals who brought laurels for India by winning the women's doubles gold in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games last month.
The title favourite here will be none other than Malaysia's world no. 1 Nicol David.
The Indian women's team is placed in the same pool as Hong Kong and will have to play really well to get anything more than a bronze it collected at Guangzhou. Pallikal, Chinappa, Anaka Alankamony and Aparajitha Balamurukan form the unit.