India's top woman's squash player Dipika Pallikal marched into the biggest final of her career after getting past higher-ranked Madeline Perry from Ireland in the USD 50,000 Texas Open at the Downtown Club in Houston.
The 22-year-old World No.12 battled for 75 minutes, enduring three tie-break games, to beat eighth-ranked Perry 11-7, 11-13, 13-11, 10-12, 11-4 in the Women's Squash Association (WSA) Gold 50 event Saturday.
The win, which levels her WSA tour head-to-head record with Perry to two-all, takes Pallikal into her first final of the year but the 12th of her career.
The Indian faces a mighty challenge in the final tonight when she takes on Egyptian qualifier Nour El Sherbini, who had stunned Malaysian World No.1 Nicol David to finish the youngest runner-up in the World Championship last month.
Pallikal goes into the title clash at the back of two matches lasting five games with the semifinal against Perry stretching to 75 minutes.
"It was another hard match, took a lot out of me. I knew she was going to come hard at me and was playing well of late.
I was able to stick to my game plan and fight for every point," Pallikal told PTI.
Pallikal is aware of what stands between her and the biggest prize of her career.
"Facing Sherbini will be harder. She is going to be very confident. I am hoping I pull one out of the bag. I have had a good tournament anyway and will try my best to end it on a high," she said referring to her 18-year-old opponent.
Pallikal added that it was "great" to have coach and five-time world champion Sarah Fitz-Gerald by her side.
In the other semifinal, the girl from Alexandria maintained the magnificent form she showed in the World Championship.
In her fifth meeting with third seed Camille Serme, El Sherbini defeated the World No.6 from France 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6 in 55 minutes to move into her seventh tour final.
The final will mark the third meeting between Pallikal and El Sherbini since June 2010 with the Indian looking for her maiden win.
(4) Dipika Pallikal (IND) bt (2) Madeline Perry (IRL) 11-7, 11-13, 13-11, 10-12, 11-4 (75m) (Q) Nour El Sherbini (EGY) bt (3) Camille Serme (FRA) 11-5, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6 (55m).