Saurav Ghosal's speed and skill on the squash court is matched only by his penchant to talk non-stop. One just has to engage him in a conversation and the 28-year-old Kolkata player goes into overdrive, explaining the nuances of the game and how he played, and how his opponent was annihilated.
On Monday, at the Yeorumul Squash Courts, he overcame one of the sternest challenges, crushing old rival Ong Beng Hee of Malaysia in the semi-finals.
Beng Hee is not a small name in the world of squash - he was ranked world No. 7 when he was in peak form and won the singles gold medal in Busan (2002) and Doha (2006) editions. And it was only Ghosal's second victory in recent times over the Malaysian, still supremely-fit at 35.
The last time Ghosal won the duel was during the World Team Championships in June last year. Beng Hee had also stood in Ghosal's way in the semifinals at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.
But one of the finest in Asia had to bite the dust only because Ghosal desperately wanted to win.
That eagerness could be seen very much on the court as Ghosal, who for the last eight years has trained under Malcolm Willstrop in the UK, strained his body to the limit to reach every drop shot and smash and did everything to keep the Malaysian pegged to the back of the court.
Close clashes in squash invariably lead to acrimony, players accusing each other of obstruction, but this game was as clean as it could get. Even though the first game saw flashes of brilliance from the Malaysian, he simply gave up in the face of Ghosal's constant onslaught.
Unforced errors flowed from the Malaysian's racquet in the second and third games, and the world No. 35 - Ghosal is the top seed and ranked No. 15 - finally gave away the match on a platter, 9-11, 4-11, 5-11 in just 45 minutes. The statistics said it all. The resistance in the first game lasted 19 minutes while the capitulation in the second and third games took just eight and 10 minutes apiece.
With Beng Hee tamed, Ghosal's opponent in the final is Abdullah Almezayen of Kuwait, who defeated Lee Ho Yin of Hong Kong 6-11, 11-8, 4-11, 11-6, 11-8.
Full of appreciation for his opponent, Ghosal, an old buddy of Beng Hee, said, "His best period was when he was the world No. 7. That itself was a testament of how good he is. I had to be mentally very strong to execute my plan against him. After all, he has won the Asian Games title."
On his title contest, Ghosal, winner of bronze in the previous two editions of the Asiad - Doha and Guangzhou - said, "This is new territory for me."
But then he moved over to the intricacies of the match. When asked about his tactics in the semi-final, Ghosal said, "There are a lot more permutations and combinations working when you are on court. You are looking for a killer shot, which could either be a drop, smash or an intelligent placement... and creating space today (Monday) was the key. I was very solid in the game."
On his chances of winning gold, Ghosal, who moved from Kolkata to Chennai to forward his career as a junior, said, "For me, compartmentalising doesn't work. I don't entertain thoughts of winning gold when I am on court; I concentrate on winning. I am going to wait; my focus will be on squash, not gold."
Meanwhile, Dipika Pallikal sat forlorn outside the court wondering what hit her in the semi-finals against Malaysian favourite Nicol David.
"She was simply too good for me," Pallikal said after her 4-11, 4-11, 5-11 loss. She, though, has the consolation of going home with a bronze.