Dipika Pallikal on Thursday became the first Indian to reach the summit clash of a Silver event when she clinched a three-set thriller against New Zealand's Jaclyn Hawkes to march into the final of the Tournament of Champions squash meet in New York.
Seventh seed Pallikal, India's top ranked female player, overcame a spirited challenge from fifth seed Hawkes of New Zealand to prevail 11-5, 14-12, 11-9 in the first semifinal of the $27,000 WISPA Silver event at Grand Central terminal.
In the final, Pallikal will meet second-seeded Natalie Grinham of the Netherlands, who edged past Egypt's Nour El Sherbini 6-11, 11-5, 11-5, 7-11, 11-4 in the other women's semifinal.
The final match-up will be a test of experience versus youth as 33-year-old Grinham, four-time former World Open finalist, and 20-year-old Chennai sensation Pallikal will be out there to stamp their supremacy over each other.
Against Hawkes, the world ranked 15th Pallikal was especially effective when stepping in to take an early volley — a playing pattern that was the hallmark of her current coach Sarah Fitzgerald.
After coming off the court, Pallikal's competitive instincts were evident. “I won't be happy until I have finished my job and won the tournament,” she said.
In the $115,000 men's event, World champion Nick Matthew and James Willstrop, who recently ousted him from the World No. 1 ranking, will renew their rivalry in the final of the first World Series tournament of the year.
Matthew defeated Greg Gaultier 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4 while Willstrop outplayed Daryl Selby 11-2, 11-3, 11-3. — PTI