When Saurav Ghosal stepped on court docket on Saturday, within the remaining of the Malaysian Open, his career had come to a full circle. The 35-year-old’s first-ever remaining at a PSA World Tour occasion got here within the 2003 version of the identical match – in his first 12 months as a pro – when he misplaced to Australia’s Mike Corren.
Last weekend although, in his 18th tour remaining, Ghosal grew to become the primary Indian to assert the Malaysian crown, beating Miguel Rodriguez 11-7, 11-8, 13-11. And in doing so, he ended a three-year trophy drought – his final title got here in Kolkata in 2018.
“It’s been some time. I’ve been working exhausting and placing the yards in, when it comes to what I needed to play and do,” he says to The Indian Express. “Going into the match, I had a plan in place and needed to execute it. For probably the most half I did that. It wasn’t simple, it was a tough win.”
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Hard, not simply because Rodriguez – additionally 35 – is a former World No 4 and is at present ranked three locations forward of Ghosal’s fifteenth spot. This was going to be a troublesome match as a result of the difficult Colombian is aware of Ghosal’s taking part in fashion effectively, and vice-versa. For years they’ve performed collectively on the tour, and at one level had been even educated by the identical coach David Palmer (albeit it was a brief stint for Rodriguez).
“We know one another very effectively so it’s not simple,” Ghosal says. “Every time we play one another we’re going to attempt to play in a different way as a result of the opposite participant is aware of what’s coming. We attempt to do our greatest to maintain a shock aspect, however in fact, it’s additionally a query of how effectively we are able to execute on the day.”
On Saturday, Ghosal knew he needed to be extra composed in his shot choice.
“He’s excellent at making it very random (mixing up strokes). He performs bizarre angles,” he explains about the Colombian veteran. “I attempted to shut the court docket down and management the tempo as a lot as I might. It was managed depth, for probably the most half I managed to try this. Picking my moments, when to assault, when to defend, not get excited. Staying calm.”
In the six instances the duo has squared off, solely two matches haven’t gone into the deciding fifth set – the primary assembly in 2009 and the 55-minute encounter final week (Ghosal leads 4-2 within the head-to-head tally).
Yet extra than simply including a tenth title to his kitty, profitable on the Bukit Jalil National Squash Centre in Kuala Lumpur gave Ghosal an idea about the place he stands.
📝 Malaysian Open Final Roundup 🇺🇸
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“Winning the occasion at 35 simply provides me confidence within the work that I’m doing. Confidence and perception that my physique can deal with the bodily stress. I simply need to take it one match at a time, one 12 months at a time. Hopefully, I can have some extra large outcomes,” he says.
18th 12 months on the street
To put Ghosal’s longevity into perspective, think about that the ladies’s champion on the Malaysian Open, 19-year-old Aifa Azman, was only a 12 months previous when the Kolkata-man turned pro. Though he misplaced the ultimate in Kuala Lumpur that 12 months, he did win his first crown in the identical season in Mumbai.
“(My health coach Damon Brown and I) concentrate on ensuring we’re taking good care of the physique, hearken to the physique, be good about the coaching we do. We have to answer what the physique is telling us, we don’t at all times get it proper when it comes to peaking on the proper time, nevertheless it’s trial and error and we do one of the best we are able to. It’s a course of, an effort, however you get rewarded for it,” he says.
In listening to the physique he’s determined, over the previous few years, to set yearly targets moderately than long-term objectives. For the subsequent season, it wasn’t too troublesome to determine what a very powerful occasions had been.
“Obviously, 2022 is a giant 12 months, I’ve to take into consideration the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, after which the World Championships in May,” says the holder of seven Asian Games medals (one gold, one silver and 5 bronze) and 2018 Commonwealth Games blended doubles silver medallist. “Hopefully I can produce one thing good there and win some medals.”
Those large occasions for subsequent 12 months are nonetheless some time away, and there’s nonetheless time for him to plan his health routine and sharpen his sport. But what he managed to do on Saturday is give himself the idea that he – the one Indian male to have damaged into the highest 10 – nonetheless has sport left in him at 35.