Hafiz makes short work of Ghosal

CHENNAI, JULY 24. It is a good development that the Egyptian Mohamed Essam A. Hafiz will stay back for a couple of more weeks in the city to act as a sparring partner for the Indians taking part in the World junior championship to be held in Islamabad in August. In hindsight, there could not have been a better choice.

For, the second seed representing Qatar in the Chennai-ICL Open — a PSA Super Satellite men's squash tournament, at the TNSRA courts here on Saturday — had the measure of India's next big hope, the 17-year-old and sixth seed Saurav Ghosal winning 15-4, 15-7, 15-9 in just 43 minutes in the summit clash.

What was expected to be a keen contest between a supremely-talented youngster and a seasoned campaigner turned into a one-sided one. The 27-year-old Hafiz, who is 6' 1" tall, used his reach to deadly effect. Whatever Ghosal threw at him, be it the boast shot or the drop volley, Hafiz was there in a flash with a few assured steps.

Backhand to the fore

But where Hafiz's skills stood pronounced was in his backhand shots. He was able to deceive Ghosal with delicate drop volleys from the back. Whenever Ghosal pushed him to the back, it was Hafiz's backhand touch that caught Ghosal on the wrong foot.

The Egyptian never trailed in any of the three games. Taking a 4-0 and 8-2 lead in the first game, Hafiz employed steeply-angled shots and coupled them with some intelligent placements giving little chance for Ghosal to free his arms. The second game was no different.

However, Ghosal showed glimpse of his fighting spirit in the third when he came back from 2-7 to 9-11 with a clever mix of boast shots and fine retrieving skills. The Egyptian was in no mood for mercy as he raced to a 13-9 lead. When Ghosal's forehand crashed into the tin, it signalled the end of a fine run. Hafiz, who claimed his second PSA title, said he won because "I have more experience than him."

Ghosal while mentioning that it was a disappointing to lose in his second PSA final, praised his opponent. "His drop shots were brilliant and his boasts shots, too, came in well."

The winner and runner-up received $ 712.50 and $ 487.50 respectively. Brig. K.P. Singh Deo, President, Rowing Federation of India, gave away the Trophies.

Before the final, the Squash Racquets Federation of India felicitated Ghosal for winning the 2004 British junior Open, the Indian men's team of Ritwik Bhattacharya, Saurav Ghosal, Siddarth Suchde and Manish Chotrani (not present) for claiming bronze in the Asian senior championship in Kuala Lumpur in June this year and Joshna Chinnappa for finishing second in the 2004 British junior girls' Open. India's coach Cyrus Poncha was also among the awardees.

The results (final):

Mohamed Essam A Hafiz (Qat) bt Saurav Ghosal (Ind) 15-4, 15-7, 15-9.

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