Saurav Ghosal created squash history by ensuring at least the silver medal, the first-ever Asian Games medal outside of bronze won by an Indian in the racquet sport, by cruising into the semifinals of the Incheon edition on Monday.
Putting up a clinical performance against two-time former Games champion and top-10 player Ong Beng Hee of Malaysia, the Kolkata-born Ghosal surged to a commanding 11-9, 11-4, 11-5 semifinal victory in 45 minutes to make the men's final at the Yeorumal squash courts. (Day 3 Blog | Medal Tally)
The 28-year-old Ghosal thus avenged his defeat against the wily Malaysian in the 2006 Asian Games at Qatar where Beng Hee went on to win the gold and defend the crown he won for the first time in 2002 at Busan.
"I have not played him much on the PSA circuit but had beaten him only once in the team event and he had beaten me 3-1 in the semifinals at Doha," said Ghosal after he produced some top drawer squash to keep his opponent pegged on the back foot for most duration of the contest.
"I have beaten three good players over the last three days. Yesterday I went back to the village, ate and then thought about how to play today's match. I will do so again today. I am focusing on one match at a time. Yes, a gold medal will be a big achievement, but I am focusing on matches rather than on medals," said Ghosal, who is a senior pro on the PSA professional tour. (Read: Indian Men's Football Team Ousted)
Ghosal will meet Abdullah Al Muzayen, the world no. 46, in the gold medal contest on Tuesday following the Kuwaiti's 3-2 (6-11, 11-8, 4-11, 11-6, 11-8) win in the other semifinal against Max Lee of Hong Kong.
About the match today, he said, "I was very solid for most of the match up to the time I gave away 3-4 soft points. It can also be said he could put up better quality stuff to which I could not react. But for the most part I was able to put him in spots behind me and create space in court and execute my plans," said Ghosal, who won the bronze in 2010 Games too.
"We knew each others game well. I had some plans for him and executed them," he said.
"I have known him for the last 10-12 years. We have not played often at the PSA circuit. This is only the second time I have beaten him," said Ghosal.
The Kolkata-based player said he would call this generation of Indian players as the golden generation, whatever anyone else may think or say.
"I call this generation of players the golden generation of Indian squash up till now. The two women Dipika (Pallikal) and Joshana (Chinappa) won the doubles gold at the Commonwealth Games which was a massive break for women's squash and the first medal for women at Asian Games was won today."
"I went to England and was trained by Malcolm Willstrop. What I am today, I owe everything to him. He's one of my best friends on and off the tour," said Ghosal who said his dream was for India to win the men's world team title and the Asian Games team gold.
"Currently three of us are in the top 100 (Ghosal, Harinder Pal Sidhu and Mahesh Mangaonkar), but we need at least five in the top 50," he said as the way to achieve his dream.
Ghosal's win compensated for the straight game defeat suffered by India's no. 1 women's player Dipika Pallikal against world no. 1 Nicol David of Malaysia in the women's semifinal.
Pallikal was beaten 11-4, 11-4, 11-5 in just 25 minutes by the defending champion who had converted her silver of 2002 Games to gold in 2006 and then retained it in Guangzhou four years later.