Saurav Ghosal became the first Indian squash player to reach the quarter-finals of the World Championships, after rallying against Henrik Mustonen in a keenly-contested match of the sport's biggest event of the year at the National Centre in Manchester on Wednesday.
The World No. 17 Ghosal played out of his skin to stretch the unseeded Finn in a hard-fought pre-quarterfinal that the Indian won 3-2 under considerable pressure.
The 27-year-old Ghosal looked to miss out on a history when he was down 0-2 against his lesser-known opponent but the Leeds-based racqueter showed his class when it mattered the most and upped the ante in the second half of the match to close out the issue 5-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-2.
The eventual scoreline hardly did justice to the incredible performance from the Indian in the first two games. Ghosal matched his opponent stroke for stroke in the third game with the players feeling each other out.
Ghosal played a tight straight game, using his experience and superior craft to retrieve Mustonen's attacking strokes and adapted to the conditions well to seal the game in 66 minutes.
"There was a little bit of pressure in my head thinking of creating history. And maybe that restricted me a little bit," said Ghosal.
"Henrik played well in the first two games and he deserved to be two-nil up. Fortunately, I was able to change things just in time and won the match," he said.
Mustonen had his nose ahead in the third game also when he made a comeback from 3-6 to level the scoreline at 6-6 and then surge ahead 7-6. But Ghosal managed to step up several levels and showed excellent ball control, coupled with fine retrieving skills, to turn the match around in his favour.
Ghosal finished the decider in style, taking eight points in a row from 3-2 and lending an uppercut punch in celebration.
He next faces Ramy Ashour, the top-seeded defending champion from Egypt, who beat Australia's Cameron Pilley 9-11, 11-8, 11-4,12-10.
Ghosal feels that his success will do a world of good to the promotion of the sport in the country.
He had made history last year by becoming the first Indian ever to make the last 16 of the World Championship and took a step further today.
"In my view, I'm not only doing it for me, but it's also for India -- for all those players that are coming after me. If my results can help and popularise the sport, then the impetus will carry on, and maybe one day, we'll have 15 Indian players in the main draw of the World Championships," said Ghosal.
Image: Saurav Ghosal