Full-time national coach need of the hour: Joshna Chinappa
From being top 10 in the world in 2016, to winning the 2014 Commonwealth Games women’s squash doubles gold with Dipika Pallikal and being one of the few on tour to beat the top three in women’s singles, Joshna Chinappa’s career has been on an upswing since she turned pro 15 years back.
Earlier this month, the 32-year-old won the singles title at the Asian Championships in Kuala Lumpur to become the first Indian to win two continental crowns and retain the title she won at Chennai in 2017 by beating Pallikal.
After reaching the pre-quarterfinal at the British Open last week, she opened up on her rivalry with Pallikal, problems with the national coaching setup and her plans for 2019 in an interview. Excerpts:
You are the first Indian to defend and win two Asian Championship titles.
It feels great to have won the Asian Championship again. It was a good week in Kuala Lumpur, especially travelling with the team. On the professional tour it’s usually just me so it was nice to have the whole team, including physiotherapist Dimple and Harry (Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu) be there to support us.
Your opponent in the final, Annie Au, has a strong record against you. How satisfying was it to beat her for the first time since 2017?
Annie is tough to play against, mentally and physically. I had lost to her three times so it was extremely satisfying to win the final.
Sandhu was courtside when Saurav Ghosal and you won the Asian titles. Your thoughts on banking on fellow players for advice instead of a coach...
Harry is a player and has experienced what we as professional players go through and understands the game well. So having him was helpful. At most of my tournaments we help each other because we don’t have a full-time coach travelling with us. As Harry is injured (and out) of the tour, he was happy to come with the team and it is great SRFI (Squash Rackets Federation of India) chose to send him with us.
There’s been a controversy regarding coach, Cyrus Poncha. SRFI say he was in Malaysia. The players deny which is why they had to help each other during matches.
Harry, as coach, and our physiotherapist were the only officials who travelled with us.
What are the challenges of not having a chief national coach?
I work with my coach, Hadrian Stiff, in Bristol, England, so I keep going as often as I can to train there. Also, I train at the squash academy in Chennai. The coaches at the academy are helpful, but it would be great to have an experienced coach based here or even a part-time coach work with the juniors and seniors. I hope we can get a coach to travel with us on the pro tour as it makes a huge difference to have someone in our corner, helping us in-between games.
How do you view your rivalry with Pallikal? You have a better record (7-2) against her.
We have a healthy rivalry on court and when I play her it’s like playing any other player I compete with on the professional tour.
You have beaten the top-three players (all Egyptians) in the world at least once but lost to players ranked below you.
Competition is extremely high in the women’s game. Everyone is working hard and is so fit and strong with high levels of skill. You have to be at the top of your game from Round 1.
Can Egypt’s domination in women’s squash be broken?
Egypt are extremely strong and I don’t see that changing soon.
What can be done to improve Indian squash?
We need more TV time and better infrastructure, which is monitored by quality coaches and trainers.
The disadvantages of squash not being an Olympic sport?
The development of the sport and financial support from the government and corporates would be a lot more if squash was an Olympic sport.
Your goals for 2019?
To be injury free and healthy.