Harinder Pal Sandhu and Saurav Ghosal played out of their skins to stretch the Egyptian maestros in a hard-fought quarterfinal of the WSF World Team Squash Championship that the Indians lost 0-2 to the top seeds.
The eventual scoreline hardly did justice to the incredible performance from the India duo. Sandhu was first up against former World No.1 Karim Darwish, who had to work hard for his 11-7, 11-4, 11-2 win while the current top ranked player Ramy Ashour took 61 minutes to subdue Ghosal 11-7, 11-9, 4-11, 13-11 as Egypt wrapped up the tie 2-0.
Sandhu matched the reigning Kuala Lumpur and Macau Open champion Darwish stroke for stroke in the first game with the players feeling each other out.
Sandhu was striking the ball well to put pressure on Darwish. Unfortunately, the Indian was unable to hit the winners to seal the points.
Darwish used his experience and superior craft to retrieve Sandhu’s best attacking strokes and adapted to the conditions well to seal the game. With his nose in front, Darwish proved unstoppable, racing away with the next two games for a loss of six points in total.
In the second singles, Ghosal put on a lion-hearted display that won over the crowd against World No.1 Ashour, the ‘PSA World Player of the year’ award winner.
Ashour has not lost a match for well over a year and is coming off a commanding win in the British Open. Ghosal managed to step up several levels to match and trouble Ashour in a match that could have gone either way.
Ashour found it hard to shake off Ghosal, putting pressure on the Indian No.1 with a lot of clinical volleys to the front of the court. Ghosal kept busy retrieving everything but did not do enough to win the game that Ashour took 11-7.
In the second game, Ghosal was 9-5 up and was looking very good, applying immense pressure on Ashour in front of the court. Both players showed some unbelievable skills in retrieving from all over the court and surprisingly, it was Ghosal who was winning the big points, but Ashour came back and managed to win the game 11-9.
Going two games down against World No.1 would have sapped the spirit of plenty of men, but Ghosal proved he is made of sterner stuff as he was off to a an early lead in the third and his perseverance finally paid off, winning the third game 11-4.
Ghosal continued his aggressive style into the fourth game and was leading 7-4 when Ashour felt a niggle on his ankle and took a three-minute injury break.
Ashour returned after medical attention and led 10-8, but Ghosal managed to pull it back to 10-10 and even had a game point at 11-10. Ghosal tried to be cheeky and hit the tin with a careless cross-court service return allowing Ashour to snatch the game and close out the match.
A proud National Coach Cyrus Poncha said: “Effort-wise, Saurav and Harinder gave everything they had, but were beaten by superior players. Harinder has the ability to raise his game against the top players and Thursday he proved himself with an excellent performance.
“Saurav put on a superlative performance. He had Ramy running like hell. Unfortunately, Saurav could not close out the match.”
India will now play in the 5th to 8th place Play-offs against sixth seeded Germany.
The results (quarterfinals):
1-Egypt beat 8-India 2-0: Karim Darwish bt Harinder Pal Sandhu 11-7, 11-4, 11-2 (28m); Ramy Ashour bt Saurav Ghosal 11-7, 11-9, 4-11, 13-11 (61m).