Saurav Ghosal breezed to a straight-set win against Englishman James Wllstrop to clinch bronze for India. The squash player was full of vim, mixing power and deft touch to flummox Willstrop. Despite the home crowd willing him, the 38-year-old was hapless in the face of Ghosal’s methodical racquet play. If the first set had been a relative breeze at 11-6, the second was an embarrassment for the home favourite. Asserting his dominance across the front and back courts, Ghosal ragged Willstrop to win 11-1. The relentless Indian withstood Willstrop’s mini resistance before steaming ahead in the third. Closing out the set 11-4, the Kolkata-lad added a bronze to his silver from Gold Coast in 2018. In a touching gesture, he waited for his once-training partner to depart the court before breaking into celebrations- his version of Pat Cash’s gallery climbing exploits.
From the get-go, the Indian was on the prowl, testing Willstrop’s ageing reflexes while pushing his to its very limit. As the Englishman huffed and puffed against his old friend, Ghosal looked almost serene inside the enclosure. He had Willstrop doubting his judgement with his judicious play. Pushing him deep with forceful shots, he would suddenly zip forwards and kill the ball dead with a deft volley. Or if the Briton stepped forward to counter Ghosal’s touch-play, he would expertly wallop it into the back courts, making the ball scurry off adjacent edges. Willstrop tried every trick in his book- stretching the rallies, calling for reviews, slowing the game down, etc.- but Ghosal was calm at all times, sealing the win at the second time of asking, after racking up seven match points.
In so doing, the 35-year-old snagged India’s first-ever medal in singles play squash at the Commonwealth Games. Taking out defending Games gold medalist Willstrop will go a long way towards exorcising his fourth-place finish at the 2014 Games and the premature exit from the singles event in 2018. The mixed doubles silver with Dipika Pallikal Karthik at Gold Coast was small comfort for the twin disappointments.