CWG 2022: Saurav Ghosal wins historic bronze in men's singles squash

Saurav Ghosal in action during the 2022 Commonwealth Games Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Saurav Ghosal won bronze in the men's singles squash event at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, defeating defending champion James Willstrop of England by a 3-0 scoreline (11-6, 11-1, 11-4). It was India's first ever singles medal in squash at the Commonwealth Games.

Ghosal had won a mixed doubles silver with Dipika Pallikal in the 2018 CWG in Gold Coast.

Immediately after the win he pumped his arms in celebration, before dropping to his knees in tears as the realisation of his own personal success and the bit of history he'd created sunk in. He also embraced Willstrop, with whom he has a close personal relationship; he has trained with Willstrop, and was coached for around 15 years by his father Malcolm. Later, he dedicated the gold medal to Malcolm and also to his grandparents.

Speaking to the media, Ghosal called it a "historic day for Indian squash", made more special by the calibre of his opponent. "I'm just so happy that after all these years, I've managed to pull through", he said, referring to past disappointments in singles play at the CWG - he came fourth in 2014.

Ghosal (35) has a plethora of medals at the Asian level, earning a gold, silver and three bronze over multiple editions in singles and team events. Now a veteran on the circuit, his surprise second-round singles in the 2018 CWG prompted a change in his approach that yielded success soon after. In April 2019 he became the first Indian male squash player to break into the top 10 of the PSA rankings and, three weeks later, the first Indian man to win the Asian Championship title.

Ghosal began favouring the forehand side, which earned him five consecutive points as he took a 6-2 lead in the first game. Willstrop, former World no 1, struggled with his movement, as the Indian's coverage of the court caused plenty of problems for the defending champion, with Ghosal going on to close the game 11-6.

He began the second game in dominant fashion, taking a 5-0 lead with Willstrop continuing to deal with Ghosal's drop shots. The Englishman managed a solitary point in the second game as Ghosal romped away to finish it off 11-1.

The third game was a fairly even affair to begin with, with Willstrop profiting from a couple of close calls to trail 3-5. It only served to motivate Ghosal, who won the next four points to go ahead 9-3. Stretching every sinew of his body, Ghosal reached a dipping shot from Willstrop in the next point to make it 10-3. Willstrop did manage to win the next point, but Ghosal's excellent shot across court proved too much for the Englishman, thus earning Ghosal the win.

Asked what was next on his agenda, he said the mixed doubles, which begins on Thursday and where he's paired with Pallikal."Hopefully we can go all the way and win the gold for India", he said.

Earlier, Ghosal opened his men's singles campaign against Shamil Wakeel of Sri Lanka defeating him 3-0 (11-4, 11-4, 11-6). He followed that with a Round-of-16 win over David Baillargeon of Canada, defeating him 3-0 as well (11-6, 11-2, 11-6).

Greg Lobban of Scotland pushed Ghosal in the quarterfinal, splitting the first two games 1-1, before the Indian triumphed 3-1 (11-5, 8-11, 11-7, 11-3). He faced the daunting prospect of World no 2 Paul Coll of New Zealand in the semifinal. It proved to be a bridge too far for Ghosal, who was comfortably second best in the semifinal, losing 0-3 (9-11, 4-11, 1-11).