Playing back-to-back five-game thrillers on Thursday and Friday at the China Open, Saurav Ghosal’s return from injury appears to be on track.
India’s top-ranked male squash player was 1-2 down, but won 3-2 to book his quarterfinal berth in the $100,000 (Rs 66.585 lakh)event. Ghosh reeled off an 11-9, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9 win over Colombia’s Miguel Angel Rodriguez, who was ranked five going into the tournament, but dropped to eighth as a result of the loss.
In the quarters, Ghosal suffered a 0-2 deficit against world No 6 Karim Abdel Gawad of Egypt, but fought back once more to force the decider. Ghosal was locked at 9-9 in the fifth but conceded the next two points for a tight loss.
“To come back from 1-2 down was obviously good. Abdel played well, he was in the final of Hong Kong (Open) and I could have done better in the first game,” said Ghosal, the world No 21. “I was good enough to win today, it’s obviously disappointing,” he added.
It was an encouraging performance, given it’s only been a few months since Ghosal’s return from an ankle injury. “There are positives I need to build on, especially since these are my first two tournaments since my injury.” Asked what some of those positives were, Ghosal said, “Beating anyone in the top 10 is not easy. To back up a long match with another and feel good physically is another positive.”
Ghosal suffered a stress fracture on the right foot at the Hong Kong Open last year. At the Allam British Open in March, he twisted his ankle in his first-round win and subsequently retired two games into his second round. “I went to an orthopaedic surgeon in England to get the problem fixed. It was a period of uncertainty and it was expensive but it worked,” he said. “I worked extremely hard for six weeks in the gym and I didn’t play much squash so as not to exert the foot too much. There were no shortcuts,” he said of his return to fitness.
Ghosal’s confidence will no doubt have been aided by his winning a record 11th title at the national championship in July, following which he won the mixed doubles silver with Dipika Pallikal in the World Doubles Squash Championship in Australia last month.
A title and several finals last year meant Ghosal had rankings points he was unable to defend this year due to his injury, but he isn’t too perturbed by the drop in ranking. “I’m sad it’s gone down to 21 as I haven’t played much since March but as long as I win matches and produce the kind of squash that I did today, I’m not too worried about it,” he said.
Ghosal will next play in the Macau Open from September 15 and the Netsuite Open in San Francisco, beginning September 27. As for more long-term goals, Ghosal has two of them.
“Making the top 10 and winning the (2018) Commonwealth Games gold in singles and in mixed doubles with Dipika are my goals.”