Like many others, Sayali Gokhale had the choice of cribbing about the lack of tournaments last year and fall into wilderness. Instead, the 22-year-old decided to meticulously work on two aspects --- strength and stamina --- and the results have been a bonus.
Sayali outlasted all her opponents to be crowned the national champion in February and then went on to win the Spanish International Challenge. She believes that a lot of credit for the change in fortunes should go to the yearlong forced break.
“I don't have a big hit and so I have to rely on speed and stamina. Since there were no tournaments and I was not in the international scheme of things, I worked on the endurance part for four months and that is making all the difference,” said the Air India employee, who is seeded second in this edition of the Tata Open.
Despite being seeded behind Aditi Mutatkar, Sayali is well aware that she will be the 'player to beat' in the tournament given her national champion status. Sayali begins her campaign against Saziya Khan and should reach the semifinal with relative ease where she could meet her academy mate Trupti Murgunde for a berth in the final.
While the title is a definite target, the tournament is more of a tune-up for the World Championship in Hyderabad next month and the world number 102 is charged up for the bigger challenge.
“I am not thinking about how it will be. It's just about playing such a big tournament and gaining as much experience,” said the Prakash Padukone academy trainee.
In the men's event, national champion Aravind Bhat will look to add another title to his kitty, while top seed Chetan Anand has a tough task to strike form in his last competitive outing before the World Championship.
Railway problems grounds Khadgi
Thane boy Amit Khadgi was forced to give a walkover in the penultimate qualifying round since he could not reach the stadium on time due to the disruption of Central Railway suburban train service between Mulund and Ghatkopar. Khadgi was scheduled to play Aditya Elango at 11.30 a.m. but could not reach the Cricket Club of India on time and chief referee Anil Singh gave his opponent a walkover after waiting for half an hour.