Mumbai, Sep 4 (IANS) The Maharashtra State Open, one of the most sought-after events on the Indian squash calendar for almost four decades, has become a PSA World Tour event.
It is being held this week at the Bombay Gymkhana, one of the oldest sporting institutions in the country that has been promoting the sport since 1875.
"This is the second PSA event in the last three months in India," said Ritwik Bhattacharya, the recently-appointed PSA South East Asia representative.
"Plans are on to try and do many more including a grand World Championship in 2014-15," he said.
"The Maharashtra State PSA Open is the first long standing event to convert its Open tournament to a PSA 15k Challenger event and we are hoping this trend continues with other clubs also doing at least one PSA event a year in India," added the five-time Indian champion, who at his peak was ranked No.38 in the world.
"The Squash Rackets Federation of India has really helped the organisers put up the event and we are in a very exciting period with the 2020 Olympic bid around the corner.
"The Bombay Gymkhana is doing various promotions including a charity drive 'squash a mile' as well as a national junior event so that the whole squash community can come out and support our wonderful sport!" Bhattacharya said.
Malaysia's former World No.7 Ong Beng Hee heads the field. The newly-crowned Malaysian national champion, currently ranked No.23 in the world, is expected to meet Egypt's World No.46 Omar Abdel Azizin Saturday's final.
The two top seeds boast 19 PSA World Tour titles between them.
India's second and third highest-ranked players in the world lead local interest in the draw.
World No.66 Harinder Pal Sandhu takes on Egyptian qualifier Shehab Essam Hosny, while Mumbai-based Mahesh Mangaonkar, ranked 22 places lower, faces 17-year-old wildcard player Kush Kumar, the recent Asian Youth Games gold medalist.
Qualifying finals results: Fares Mohamed Dessouki (EGY) bt Xavier Blasco Marchal (ESP) 11-8, 11-3, 11-4 (24m); Hannan Tarmidi (MAS) bt Mohamed El Tabaa (EGY) 6-11, 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-7 (61m); Shehab Essam Hosny (EGY) bt Sanjay Singh (MAS) 11-6, 8-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-5 (64m); Deepak Mishra (IND) bt Steven London (ENG) 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 5-11, 11-5 (82m).