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Hong Kong to contest both Asian Games team finals for first time

After previously only having contested the women’s final (in 2010), Hong Kong China will compete in both Asian Games Team Championships Squash finals for the first time on Saturday following 2/0 victories in both semi-finals at the Gelora Bung Karno Sports Complex in Jakarta, Indonesia.

In the men’s semis, the favourites despatched second seeds India – top string Max Lee seeing off Indian number one Saurav Ghosal (pictured above, right, with Lee), the highest-ranked player in the tournament, 11-7, 11-9, 13-11 before the recently crowned Asian Games individual gold medallist Leo Au battled for four games to overcome Indian Harinder Pal Sandhu 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 11-3.

“Max and myself played a tough individual final,” Au later said. “We’re glad we managed to have been able to take turns to rest the last two days, which helped us recover. Hopefully, we’ll both be at our best again tomorrow and go for another gold.”

Hong Kong’s opponents will be Malaysia, the No.3 seeds who reached the final for the third time in a row by beating fourth seeds Pakistan 2/0 – team number one Nafiizwan Adnan claiming his first win in the tournament with an 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 victory over Pakistani Tayyab Aslam before Eain Yow Ng sealed the place in the final after overcoming Israr Ahmed 7-11, 11-8, 16-14, 11-6.

Ng (pictured above, foreground,in semis action) said later: “Really happy to have won that and close the tie out. He had nothing to lose and was firing everything in, but I just stuck to my game and made it tough for him. It was a tough one but really happy to get Malaysia through.”

The day’s biggest shock took place in the first women’s semi-final when third seeds India beat favourites and defending champions Malaysia 2/0 – thereby ending the legendary Nicol David-led team’s eight-year reign as Asian Games champions.

Indeed David, who came into the team event as women’s individual gold medallist for a record fifth time, suffered her first defeat in Jakarta at the hands of Indian number one Joshna Chinappa. It was only in April that Chinappa (pictured above, foreground, with Nicol) was able to end a 14-match losing streak to the Malaysian superstar stretching back to the Asian Championships in 2002.

Clearly invigorated by this breakthrough win, Chinappa further reduced the head-to-head deficit, stemming a courageous comeback by David to beat the former world number one 12-10, 11-9, 6-11, 10-12, 11-9 in 66 minutes.

Team-mate Dipika Pallikal Karthik took full advantage of this unexpected lead, going on to beat Malaysian second string Low Wee Wern 11-2, 11-9, 11-7 to secure the unexpected place in the final.

The ever-magnanimous David, who will now add a bronze medal to her collection of seven Asian Games gold medals, said later: “The Indian team, they played very well today. We just lost to a stronger team today. We have a good team and it’s just unfortunate that they were better today.

“Winning a medal here is still something to be proud of. We came and we fought hard. I don’t think any of us would go into the court not giving our best and that’s the main thing.”

India now have to face Hong Kong in their second tie against the second seeds in 48 hours.

Led by world No.11 Annie Au, Hong Kong denied Japan a place in the final by beating the fourth seeds 2/0.

Japan were celebrating their first time in the medals and losing second string Misaki Kobayashi, the team’s captain, said later: “This is my third Asian Games and it means a lot to me to go home with a bronze medal as this is one of my last tournaments as a full time professional player.

“Four years ago we lost out a semi-final place to Korea very closely, so we’ve waited for this moment for a long time. Realistically there’s still a gap between us and the rest of the top three countries. So I think we’ve done our best for now.”

Men’s semi-finals:
[1] HONG KONG CHINA bt [2] INDIA 2/0 
Max Lee 3-0 Saurav Ghosal 11-7, 11-9, 13-11 (41m)
Leo Au 3-1 Harinder Pal Sandhu 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 11-3 (45m)

[3] MALAYSIA bt [4] PAKISTAN 2/0 
Nafiizwan Adnan 3-0 Tayyab Aslam 11-8, 11-6, 11-6 (35m)
Eain Yow Ng 3-1 Israr Ahmed 7-11, 11-8, 16-14, 11-6 (41m)

Women’s semi-finals:
[3] INDIA bt [1] MALAYSIA 2/0 
Joshna Chinappa 3-2 Nicol David 12-10, 11-9, 6-11, 10-12, 11-9 (66m)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik 3-0 Low Wee Wern 11-2, 11-9, 11-7 (25m)

[2] HONG KONG CHINA bt [4] JAPAN 2/0 
Annie Au 3-1 Satomi Watanabe 11-6, 11-5, 12-14, 11-9 (54m)
Joey Chan 3-1 Misaki Kobayashi 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-1 (32m)

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