The Indian women’s squash team lost the all-important match against Hong Kong 1-2 to finish second in Group B, resulting in a tougher semifinal opponent in defending champions Malaysia at the Asian Games, here today.
Senior players Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa lost their matches against Joey Chan and Annie Au, 1-3 and 0-3, respectively. Sunayna Kuruvilla, who is Pallikal’s cousin, kept India in the hunt with a fighting win over Tze Lok Ho in the second singles.
Kuruvilla, making her Games debut, was trailing 0-2 in the match and 7-10 in the fifth and deciding game but she never gave up despite some debatable calls by the referee. She fought till the last point for the biggest win of her career, prevailing 5-11, 13-15, 11-6, 11-9, 14-12.
After the energy-sapping match, Kuruvilla had tears in her eyes. Unfortunately, her spirited effort was not good enough for the team.
India, who had won a maiden silver at the Incheon Games, would have had a much easier opponent in Japan if they had beaten Hong Kong.
Beating defending champions Malaysia will be a huge task but it is possible, said Pallikal.
“Disappointed with the match. Both Joshna and I did not play our best squash. But it is still not over. We can beat Malaysia. It is not impossible. Of course, we would have preferred playing Japan and Malaysia in the semis,” said Pallikal.
Both Pallikal and Chinappa had settled for a bronze each in the singles event. A team bronze is assured but the team is aiming to go all the way. Malaysia are led by multiple time world champion Nicol David, whom Chinappa stunned in Egypt earlier this year.
Both men and women are on their own here even though the coaches are travelling with them. During matches, the players have to rely on each other for inputs as they don’t have a full-time coach. The coaches travelling with the Indian contingent are Cyrus Poncha and Bhuvneshwari Kumari.