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Young squash player out to claim a slice of history

Dipika Pallikal has a date with history. The World Junior Squash Championship begins in Chennai on July 29 and there’s a good chance that India could have its first junior world champion by August 2 as the 17-year-old goes in seeded number one. Gordon D'Costa reports.

other Updated: Jul 23, 2009 23:29 IST
Gordon D'Costa

Dipika Pallikal has a date with history. The World Junior Squash Championship begins in Chennai on July 29 and there’s a good chance that India could have its first junior world champion by August 2 as the 17-year-old goes in seeded number one.

The best India has achieved in the past was Joshna Chinappa’s runners-up finish in Belgium in 2005. Incidentally, even Chinnapa was the top-seed in that edition. But with the kind of form that Pallikal, ranked 48 in the world, is in at the moment, the individual title looks to be within striking distance.

She reached the final of the British and Asian Junior championships earlier this year. On both occasions she lost to Malaysian Wee Wern Low. However, with her nemesis Low turning 19 on July 25 and hence illegible to participate in this event, Pallikal is not expected to encounter too many hurdles towards her dream of claiming the crown.

But as of now Pallikal is not interested in thinking about the possibility of being the first Indian world junior champion. She would rather talk about the work she has put in. “Preparations have gone very well. For the last three month I have done some intensive training,” said the Chennai girl, who for the past three years has been under the guidance of Egyptian coach Amir Wagh at the Gezira Sports Club in Cairo courtesy funds from the Mittal Champions Trust which has been bank rolling her dreams.

On playing in Chennai, where she lost to Low in the Asian Junior’s in January, she is not too concerned. “Playing at home is a huge advantage. It will be nice to play in the same place where I started to play the game. It’s also great to be playing in familiar conditions and in front of friends and family members.”

Pallikal also mentioned that she has not lost to any of the players figuring in the 64-strong draw.

“I have also beaten some of the players, including fifth seed Nouran El Torky of Egypt. However, I do expect them to come back stronger.” Nouran is drawn in the same half and could run into the Indian in the quarterfinals.

“I want to win this for India,” said Pallikal before signing off.