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Full of Josh(na)

Joshna Chinappa beats Dipika Pallikal Karthik in a pulsating final to win the Asian Championship and clinch India’s first gold

Full of Josh(na)
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Max Lee of Hong Kong and Joshna Chinappa of India, winners of the 19th Asian Squash Championship

Chennai

A final of any championship can always be touted as a battle of equals and it was only fitting to see the two flag bearers of Indian squash, Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal Karthik, battle it out for the coveted gold medal at the 19th Asian Championships.

The game had already gone into the annals of squash for staging an all-Indian final for the first time and the quality of squash dished out to the holiday crowd only added to the spirit. And, if there was a way a winner could be adjudged by the quality of the game they play, both Dipika and Joshna would have been winners but sadly in sport, the numbers do the talking and the pulsating final went Joshna’s way at 13-15, 12-10, 11-13, 11-4, 11-4. This was India's first gold medal in this history of the tournament. 

There was nothing that could separate the two players. If Dipika went for a smash, Joshna knew how to receive and when Joshna went for a drop, Dipika was on the ball in a flash. Just as Joshna had termed it on Saturday, it was another day in the academy for the players as they read their opponents’ game plan and strategy very well.

Nonetheless trading two games each, with the earlier games going to extra points and to tantalising lengths, it seemed anybody's match. For Joshna, it was always a case of getting back on level terms with a player against who she has lost in recent meetings. With every winning point in the decider, Joshna seemed to grow in confidence and that left Dipika frustrated in the end.

Tempers did flay inside the glass court as there was a host of let calls by both the players. They kept running into each other and in the fifth game Dipika bumped into Joshna (at 0-0), had a fall and took a medical timeout, a turning point in the match post which she couldn’t get back on level terms easily.

The match was not a case of Dipika playing second fiddle. She had her moments, made the best of that but the fluency was only visible in patches. The fourth seed’s movements lacked sharpness and that curbed her progress to an extent.

Joshna knew where her winners would come from. She was agile and made Dipika work hard for her points. She forced Dipika to get into her scheme of things and in the end it was Joshna’s perseverance combined with aggression that made the evening the most memorable for her. 

And with the quality of squash that was dished out to the holiday crowd, the last Sunday of April will be remembered for a long time among squash enthusiasts.

Later, N Ramachandran, President IOA and Patron SRFI , Debendranath Sarangi, Vice President ASF and President SRFI and Neeraj Ambani, President Group Logistics, Reliance Industries gave away the medals to the winners. Sarangi also gave away the ASF awards announced a few days ago. Of interest for India was National coach Cyrus Poncha getting the Coach of the Year award. 

Medals: 

Men: Gold: Max Lee (Hong Kong); Silver: Saurav Ghosal (Ind); Bronze: Mohd Nafizwan (Mal) and Leo Au (HK). 

Women: Gold: Joshna Chinappa (Ind), Silver: Dipika Pallikal Karthik; Bronze: Annie Au (HK) and Tong Tsz Wing (HK)

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