Pallikal storms into semis of San Francisco Open

Pallikal storms into semis of San Francisco OpenCHENNAI: India’s world No.21 Dipika Pallikal made short work of USA’s Olivia Blatchford 13-11, 11-6, 11-9 to enter the women’s semifinals of the San Francisco Open squash tournament, a PSA World Tour event.

She made it two wins over seeded players in as many days after having beaten fourth-seed Emily Whitlock in round one.

It would be her biggest PSA World Tour semifinal since 2014.

Pallikal was in fine form in her match against sixth seeded Whitlock and continued in the same vein against her American rival yesterday.

She had in fact lost to Blatchford in the first round of the same event in 2015.

The first game saw the Indian come up with some composed squash and well-structured rallies to go four game balls up before the sixth-seed fought back.

Blatchford came into her own as she fought for every point and she managed to level the scores. However, after she had overturned another game ball in the tie-break, the US No.2 tinned an attempted volley drop under pressure from Pallikal to go a game down.

It was one-way traffic in the second as Pallikal dominated and quickly doubled her advantage, while a tightly- contested third game saw the Indian go match ball up when a contentious no-let decision was given against Blatchford to bring an end to the 35-minute match.

She said after some unimpressive results in the summer, things were falling in place, for which she credited national coach Ashraf el Karagui.

“I’ve really worked hard this summer, I didn’t get the results I wanted in China and Hong Kong and I just wanted to come here, play well and enjoy myself. Things are finally falling in place and we’ve got Ashraf el Karagui who has joined us as a national coach in India,” Pallikal was quoted as saying by the PSA World Tour website.

“He’s been there for the last year, so things are picking up and I feel like I’m playing a lot better and I’m a lot more composed. He’s been a very big influence in both today’s and yesterday’s wins and I’m just glad that I could do it for him because he has worked really hard for me,” she said.

The Indian ace plays Malaysia’s eight-time world champion and No.2 seed Nicol David in the semifinal tomorrow after a day’s rest.

David had to work hard to edge out England’s fifth-seeded Victoria Lust 11-5, 7-11, 11-6, 9-11, 12-10 in 76 minutes.

National coach Cyrus Poncha was all praise for Pallikal and said her hard work at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai in the past few weeks was paying dividends.

“She has been working hard over the past few weeks with coach Achraf (el Karagui) at the ISA and its paying dividends.

Her next match is against the legend Nicol David. She has to give it her best shot,” he said.–PTI

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