On an action-packed day at the Siri Fort Sports Complex, sixth seed Saurav Ghosal displayed all his skill and finesse but still lost to Egyptian Amr Shabana in the pre-quarters of the PSA Squash Masters.
In a match that lasted close to an hour, Shabana defeated the Indian 11-5, 11-6, 6-11, 11-9 to book a slot in the quarterfinals with compatriot Mohammad El Shorbagy.
After the match, the national champion, with a stunned expression on his face, said: "Shabana was unbelievable today. That was close to perfection." In the second game, the Egyptian had taken seven points on the trot before Ghosal could manage one. "Obviously I'm disappointed I lost. But if someone plays that way, as good as Shabana just did, there is no one who can beat him," Ghosal grinned.
The 24-year-old will now be taking a "much-needed break" before starting training again from the first week of January. "The Tournament of Champions (in New York) will be my first event next year," Ghosal said.
Shabana, who has struggled with injuries in the past, said he had allowed the Indian to come back into the match in the third game. "I took off my foot from the gas for a while and he jumped back right in. He was under pressure in the first two games," Shabana said.
The world No. 6, who had also beaten the Indian in the first round of the PSA Masters last year in Mumbai, said Ghosal would learn from experience and crack the top ten in a few years. "He's on the right track for his age. He just needs to be patient and keep putting pressure on the top players," he said.
India's top-ranked female player Dipika Pallikal moved into the quarterfinals of the WISPA event by beating qualifier Lisa Aitken of Scotland 11-6, 11-9, 11-3 in 29 minutes. Pallikal, who could come up against third seed Kasey Brown on Friday, said, "Kasey is inside the top 10 in the world so it's going to be a tough task at hand. But overall, I'm happy with my performance."
But Chennai girl Joshna Chinappa bowed out of the tournament at the first hurdle, putting up a spirited fight before losing to Hong Kong's Annie Au 6-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 10-12. "I did everything I could but it was not my day," Chinappa said.
India's qualifier Anaka Alankamony was beaten 3-11, 4-11, 5-11 in 23 minutes by sixth seed Wee Wern Low from Malaysia, while Aparajitha Balamurukam also lost 4-11, 2-11, 1-11 to Camille Serme.