It was heartbreak for Indian fans as wrestler Vinesh Phogat once again lost to his Japanese nemesis Mayu Muakida to get knocked out of the gold medal race, but ace wrestler Sakshi Malik kept the tricolour flying as she won her semi-final bout to seal a place in the summit clash in the ongoing Asian Wrestling Championship on Friday. Also Read - I Suffered Setbacks Because Nature Wanted me to be Stronger: Vinesh Phogat

This is not the first time Vinesh lost to the Japanese. It was the same opponent who got the better of the Indian in 2019 at World Championship and Asian Championships and the trend continued as the gritty Indian yet again struggled to break the strong defence of the Japanese. Also Read - Wrestling: Vinesh Phogat Wins Gold, Reclaims Number One Rank; Bajrang Punia Books Final Berth

In a tough opening round, Vinesh tried single leg attacks a number of times but every time Mukaida blocked her move and eventually got the upper body lock to subdue the home favourite. Also Read - Vinesh Phogat Clinches Gold Medal at Matteo Pelicone Rankings Series

In her last two meetings, Vinesh had not scored a single point against the 2019 world silver medallist. She managed a takedown this time before eventually losing 2-6.

The hard-working Vinesh will now fight for bronze against Vietnam’s Thi Ly Kieu but even a medal won’t suffice to lift her mood as she and the fans have high expectations from her.

Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik, who has been struggling of late, lost her opening round 1-2 to Naomi Ruike from Japan but later overcame two weak opponents to eventually reach the final of the non-Olympic 65kg category.

She could hardly attack Naomi but outplayed Korea’s Ohyoung Ha in the next round, winning by technical superiority.

In her semifinal against Uzbekistan’s Nabira Esenbaeva, Sakshi led 5-0 but her rival pulled off consecutive two-point moves to make it 5-4.

Sakshi has been losing in closing stages of late but this time she managed to hold on to her narrow lead, surviving anxious last two seconds.

Also in medal contention are India’s brightest youngsters Sonam Malik (62kg) and Anshu Malik (57kg).

Sonam, who had defeated Sakshi in the trials, showed good tactical mind in her resounding win against Korea’s Hanbit Lee and also in the 2-5 defeat against world bronze medallist Yukako Kawai.

She pulled off a superb point-scoring move from a disadvantageous position and resisted the 2018 U-23 world champion Yukako in a good fashion.

She will now fight for bronze against Aisuluu Tynbekova.