CHENNAI: Four Indians entered the main draw of the WISPA and PSA events at the Chennai Open squash championships here on Wednesday.
Dipika Pallikal caused a flutter in her second qualifying round, beating Irishwoman Aisling Blake, ranked 25th in the world, 11-8, 11-6, 11-5. It didn't entirely seem an upset because at no point during the match did it look like Dipika was playing someone ranked 24 spots above her.
Dipika began strongly with a couple of eye-catching winners early in the first game — inside-out forehand boasts a couple of feet from the front wall — and hardly let up thereafter. Blake didn't help her flagging cause either, committing three service errors early in the second game.
Asked if she was surprised by the ease of her victory, Dipika suggested that the straight game scoreline might have been a little deceptive. “The scores might have looked like that, but it was a very difficult game.”
Dipika drew as her first round opponent top seed and World No. 1 Nicol David. “All I'm looking to do,” said Dipika, “is to get in there and enjoy my game tomorrow.”
Nicol, meanwhile, was in a relaxed mood as she watched her Malaysian compatriots, Low Wee Wern and Sharon Wee, tussle for a qualifier berth. David said she was eager to kick off her first event of the year.
“At the beginning of the season, I generally take time off for a month of training, and this year I had no tournaments in February either. Right now, all I want to do is get on court and start playing.”
This is Nicol's fifth visit to Chennai. “I've been coming here right from my junior days, when we had tournaments at the Madras Cricket Club. It's great to see all the progress they've made with the academy,” she said.
Sticking to rankings
The results of the final men's qualifying round stayed true to rankings. Ritwik Bhattacharya took the longest in clearing the qualifying hurdle, dropping the second game against Scot Stuart Crawford before winning in four, taking the final game 13-11.
Siddharth Suchde breezed past Vikas Jangra while the nimble Harinder Pal Sandhu recorded a harder fought, but still straight game win over Malaysian Elvinn Keo. The only Indians to lose on Wednesday apart from Jangra were Gaurav Nandrajog, who lost to Denmark's Kristian Frost Olesen, and Anaka Alankamony, who was done in by the deft, left-handed strokes of Australian Donna Urqhart, the top seed in qualifying.
The results (Indians only):
Women: Dipika Pallikal bt Aisling Blake (Irl) 11-8, 11-6, 11-5; Donna Urqhart (Aus) bt Anaka Alankamony 11-3, 12-10, 12-10.
Men: Siddharth Suchde bt Vikas Jangra 11-7, 11-1, 11-5; Ritwik Bhattacharya bt Stuart Crawford (Sco) 11-8, 8-11, 11-2, 13-11; Harinder Pal Sandhu bt Elvinn Keo (Mal) 11-7, 11-6, 13-11; Kristian Frost Olesen (Den) bt Gaurav Nandrajog 9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-8 .