The seedings had portrayed a semifinal place for India. There was hope too and as it turned out the host's dream materialised as it made it to the final four with a fine 3-0 win over Australia in the final Pool A match on Friday in the SDAT-WSF U-21 World Cup squash here. The win helped India finish second in the pool and in the semifinal India will play France.
The big change of the day was the venue. From the dour settings of an academy, the competition shifted to a vibrant mall, the Express Avenue. Spectators around, curious shoppers, music and of course lights, provided for a different ambience. But in the glass court it was business as usual. None symbolised this better than Ravi Dixit who came on first and seemed in a hurry to finish off his work against Jamie McErvale.
Two quick games saw the Indian in full control, as he varied his strokes, down the line and cross court. Mixing the drops, he had the measure of the Australian opponent. But just when he was cruising, came the self-enforced brakes.
In his own admission Dixit said “he took it slightly easy”. Jamie did not need any more incentive as he clawed back, saved three match points to grab the third game. Suddenly the visitor's placements gained sharpness no matter he was getting sapped for energy. Fortunately for India, Dixit did not allow his mind to go astray.
Dipika show her class
Dipika Pallikal, currently ranked World No. 14 to give India the winning edge. Her opponent Sarah Cardwell, daughter of a former World No. 1 Vicki Cardwell, had a recent Tour win to look back on.
But Dipika showed her class. Her forehand was lethal and the drops perfectly angled to put Sarah on the backfoot. Not once did the Australian ooze in confidence against a player who has played against some of the best in the sport and knew exactly what she had to do. Dipika convincingly registered her win for herself and also helped bring up the winning 2-0 lead for India.
It was then left to Ramit Tandon and Walter Koteka to complete the formalities in the third match of the tie, which was of only academic interest.
Saturday's other semifinal will feature Egypt, which looks indomitable, against England. Both these teams had comfortable final league encounters. Egypt rested Marwan Shorbagy and still had enough ammunition to dispose of Germany while England swept aside Malaysia by a similar 3-0 margin.
Earlier, France completed its engagements in Pool B with an all-win reord after it defeated Hong Kong.
The outcome meant France tops the pool with England taking the second place. Similarly Egypt finished at the top in Pool A.
The results: Pool A: Egypt bt Germany 3-0 (Karim Abdel Gawad bt Rudi Rohrmuller 11-6, 12-10, 11-8; Nour El Tayeb bt Franziska Hennes 11-7, 11-5, 11-6; Mohamed Abouelghar bt Sven Lemmermann 11-7, 11-9, 11-6); India bt Australia 3-0 (Ravi Dixit bt Jamie McErvale 11-4, 11-3, 10-12, 11-9; Dipika Pallikal bt Sarah Cardwell 11-6, 11-4, 11-5, Ramit Tandon bt Walter Koteka 11-1, 11-2, 11-4).
Pool B: England bt Malaysia 3-0 (Charles Sharpes bt Sanjay Singh 11-6, 11-8, 10-12, 11-3 ; Emily Whitlock bt Rachel Arnold 11-1, 11-9, 11-9; Declan James bt Marcus Yuen 11-8, 11-5, 11-6; France bt Hong Kong China 2-1 (Lucas Serme bt Yeung Ho Wai 11-3, 11-1, 11-6 ; Chloe Mesic lost to Tong Tsz-Wing 7-11, 6-11, 5-11; Geoffrey Demont bt Cheuk Yan Tang 11-6, 11-5, 11-5).
Semifinal line-up on Saturday: Egypt v England (3.30 p.m.); France v India (6 p.m.).