Gaurav Nandrajog resisted a late fightback by Harinder Pal Singh to set up a semi-final clash with top seed Ritwik Bhattacharya in the 54th National squash championship in Delhi on Friday.
Up two games and leading 8-3 in the third, Nandrajog allowed the Chandigarh lad to win the next five points and level scores.
But the former national champion in the Under-15, U-17 and U-19 categories pulled up his socks in time to snatch the next two points and clinch a 9-7, 9-0, 10-8 victory.
The other semi-final will be between Siddarth Suchde, who beat Parth Sharma 9-0, 9-6, 9-2, and Sourav Ghosal, who got the better of Parthiban Ayyappan 9-5, 9-2, 9-2.
"The first game, it was just bang, bang and bang. There was not much feel. But after that I was able to feel the ball more and got him move back and front," said Nandrajog.
"The idea in the third game was to pin him down and it worked well. But then I lost focus and he also slowed down the pace of the game," added the 21-year-old Delhi lad, who is representing Tamil Nadu in the tournament, having made Chennai his base a year ago to further his career.
It was a belated move by Nandrajog though as Bhattacharya and, more particularly, Sourav Ghosal, who were his arch-rivals in the junior days, have stolen a march over him.
"Yes, I was in a bit of dilemma at that time and hesitated to shift to Chennai. Sourav moved there before me and when I realised the gap between us had widened, I decided I too have to make the decision," said Nandrajog whose best performance at the Nationals is a semi-final appearance, last year.
Another lad who will be shifting base and focus, but is entirely cool about it, is Suchde.
The 21-year-old Mumbaikar, considered among the top three men's players with Bhattacharya and Ghosal, went to Scotland in 1999 for higher studies and then four years later to Boston, where he is into third year of his graduation at Harvard University.
"I decided to go to Harvard because when the scholarship was offered to me it was hard to resists. And it will also be a good backup for me.
"From next year, it will be 100 percent squash. I will be then shifting between India and England as I play in the professional circuit," said Suchde, who is the number one player at Harvard in inter-collegiate tournaments.
Winning the title here could fetch him a place in the squad for the Asian Games.
"Representing the country would be a great honour," he said.