India seal last 16 spot at World Squash meet

Mulhouse (France), June 11 (IANS) India booked their place in the pre-quarterfinal round with a commanding 3-0 win over Finland in their second Pool H match of the WSF men's World Team squash championship here.

After a tight escape against Argentina, the Indian team made the bold choice of bringing in Ramit Tandon in place of Harinder Pal Sandhu. The gamble paid rich dividends as Tandon tamed the dangerous Henrik Mustonen 11-4, 11-6, 11-13, 11-4, and set India on course for a 3-0 win that took them to the top of the Pool Monday.

The 22-year-old Mustonen has recently achieved his career best 36th in world rankings, a whopping 196 places higher than Tandon, and was heavy favourite going into the match.

Tandon showed no fear and went for the jugular, volleying brilliantly to give Mustonen the run around. The young Indian wrapped up the first game as a shell-shocked Mustonen tried to figure out what hit him in those opening minutes.

There was no letting up from Tandon as he continued his attacking style, going for his volleys and backhand drops to torment the Finnish No.2 who is coming off a good run on the PSA Tour.

Mustonen found some hope in the third game as Tandon lost the edge a little. With the match ball in sight, Tandon got the nerves and kept the ball in play instead of going for the kill. The Finn took advantage of that little window of doubt to snatch the third game.

However, Tandon, encouraged by his team-mates, snapped back into the groove, putting away the point at every chance with a volley to the front or a backhand drop that was just out of reach of an exasperated Mustonen.

Sunday's hero Mahesh Mangaonkar was next on court and proved too powerful for Matias Tuomi as the Indian stamped his authority early on and never let go.

Mangaonkar unleashed his power, smashing some hard balls across the court and romped home in style, winning 11-4, 11-7, 11-7, to seal the win and a last 16 spot for the Indians leaving Saurav Ghosal to play out a dead rubber.

With the match won, Ghosal and Olli Tuominen would have been forgiven for playing out a dull match, but the seasoned professionals were locked in a high-quality battle that was good value for the money with the Indian winning 3-1.

World No.20 Ghosal played his usual high-intensity game using his youthful exuberance to tease and torment the "Flying Finn", at 34 very much an elder statesman on the pro-tour.

Ghosal continued the aggressive game employed by his teammates and combined with this precision, proved too hard for the Finland No.1.

A jubilant coach Cyrus Poncha said: "I am very delighted with what happened today. I am proud of how they performed and am looking forward to the match against Venezuela Tuesday."

The results:

India beat Finland 3-0: Ramit Tandon bt Henrik Mustonen 11-4, 11-6, 3-11, 11-4; Mahesh Mangaonkar bt Matias Tuomi 11-4, 11-7, 11-7; Saurav Ghosal bt Olli Tuominen 11-7, 11-2, 7-11, 11-9.

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