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Iskandar to meet Razik

Amitabha Das Sharma

KOLKATA: Top seeded Mohammed Azlan Iskandar of Malaysia stopped the onward march of qualifier Khayal Muhammad Khan, beating him 11-4, 11-7, 11-0 in the first semifinal of the two-star PSA Kolkata international squash tournament at the Calcutta Racket Club on Friday. Iskandar will meet Shahier Razik of Canada in the final on Saturday. Third seeded Razik caused a minor upset upstaging second seeded Cameron Pilley of Australia 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-8.

The first semifinal, lasting only 24 minutes, highlighted a great contrast of styles and abilities as the world No. 15 from Malaysia ripped apart the defences of the 69th ranked Pakistani to produce a facile win. Khan, who prevailed in an Indo-Pak battle in the quarterfinals upsetting 62nd ranked Ritwik Bhattacharya in a match of frayed tempers and feigned infringements on Thursday, did not find his histrionics working against the top seed.

The opening game saw a close race initially as Khan made a positive start. But Iskandar took over and raced to a 7-3 lead, forcing repeated errors out of his opponent. Khan could manage only one more point before the Malaysian took the game 11-4. The second game was more intense as Khan fine-tuned his strokes keeping up till 7-7. But a series of negative ruling of `no let' from the referee against the Pakistani, who appealed for obstructions, handed Iskandar the advantage. The top seed wrapped up the final five points in the process to forge a 2-0 lead. Unable to break the concentration of Iskandar, Khan seemed to throw in the towel in the third game and produced a sequence of unforced errors to help the top seed wrap it up 11-0.

In the second semifinal, Razik displayed uncanny resilience to claw back time and again. The Australian's attacking style fell against the defences of the seasoned Canadian, who effectively withered out his opponent inducing long rallies. A tired Pilley ultimately had to surrender to the endurance of the Razik. The 28-year-old Canadian, who had a 2-0 head-to-head equation over the Australian — five years his junior — on the PSA circuit, won the first game 11-8 after trailing 1-4 at one stage. Pilley won the second game 11-9 before Razik raced to a 2-1 lead, reproducing the scoreline of the first game. Pilley squared it off again winning the fourth game 11-5 but Razik, who trailed 4-8 at one stage in the decider, completed the progression winning the decider repeating the 11-8 scoreline for the third time in the match.

The results: Semifinals: 1-Mohammed Azlan Iskandar (Mas) bt Khayal Muhammed Khan (Pak) 11-4, 11-7, 11-0; 3-Shahier Razik (Can) bt 2-Cameron Pilley (Aus) 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-8.

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