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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Pune teen duo take on World Junior Individual Squash Championships

The teenage duo has been picked by the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) to compete at the World Junior Individual Squash Championships taking place in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, from July 30

pune Updated: Jul 28, 2019 17:25 IST
Pranav Shahaney
Pranav Shahaney
Hindustan Times, Pune
Yoshna Singh (16)
Yoshna Singh (16)(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

Post their glowing performances in domestic circuit, city squash players Arnaav Sareen (15) and Yoshna Singh (16) have the opportunity to win laurels for the country at the international stage.

The teenage duo has been picked by the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) to compete at the World Junior Individual Squash Championships taking place in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, from July 30.

The pair is two of the ten players selected to represent India. Players from 30 countries will be participating to determine the best global under-19 junior squash players.

While Yoshna has tasted competition on the playing field after crashing out in the first round of Squash Rackets Federation of India contest last year, it is Arnaav’s debut appearance in what is expected to be, in his own admission, the “biggest tournament” of his life.

Youngest competitor

Arnaav gave his best at the selection trials in May and finished third. It was a remarkable feat as he was younger than all of the other participants and is now one step closer to his dream of becoming a top professional player.

“I finished third in the national camp among 16 of the best under-19 players in India. It’s a proud achievement as I’m only 15 and I performed well compared to players older than me. Also, I was the only boy from Pune to make it to the trials and I’m glad I have the opportunity to represent the country,” said Arnaav, while expressing his delight at being picked for the world junior team.

Arnaav Sareen (15)
Arnaav Sareen (15) ( Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO )

Learning experience

Yoshna, on the other hand, having been there and done that, knows what to expect going into the tournament. After crashing out in the first round, the 16-year-old accepted that there were certain aspects of her game that needed tuning and she now she believes she is in perfect shape to ruffle a few feathers in the Malaysian capital later this month.

“Last year I was only 15 and the opponent I lost to was 18. Everyone was stronger as it’s an under-19 event. But I think the tournament has been an eye-opener as, when I look back at it, I was not as fit as I am today. Apart from my fitness, I’ve tried to play longer rallies as earlier I used to look to finish points quickly and keep the game short, but now I’ve tried to keep them longer. I’ve also worked a lot on the accuracy of my shots,” she said.

The government and the SRFI have ensured that the players are well equipped for the mega event and have conducted two training camps in Delhi and Mumbai over the past month to cater to the fitness of youngsters. In fact, the Mumbai camp concluded last week, gave players a couple of weeks to blow off steam before they fly off to Malaysia on July 27.

Hone skills

During these two weeks, Arnaav has made sure that he doesn’t alter his fitness or his warm-up routines a great deal as he believes it can have an adverse effect on his performances in Kuala Lumpur. According to him, sticking to the basics is what is important rather than unnecessarily overcomplicating things at the eleventh hour.

“I don’t believe in making any drastic changes going into a major championship. It is by far the biggest tournament I’ve played in. I’ve been happy with my performances in the two training camps and now I have to see to it that I perform well when it actually matters,”said Sareen.

Being a rank outsider in this tournament, Singh knows how difficult it would be for her to upset the odds and end up on the podium on August 4, but it is still gunning with gusto going into the event. She’s set her sights on making it to the pre-quarterfinals and plans to take it one game at a time from there.

However, she is well aware that the Egyptians and the Malaysians are enjoying somewhat of a duopoly over the squash game worldwide. The 16-year-old has been watching a lot of their matches and is looking to adapt a few of their tactics into her game moving forward.

Giving an insight as to where to Indian players are lacking compared to countries like Egypt, Malaysia and even the United States, she explained, “They’re able to anticipate well and they have a stronger game plan altogether. They know what they’re doing and where should they hit the ball. I feel that their shot selection is one step ahead of the rest and they use the whole court to their advantage. If we usually stick to a few shots, they use every shot on the court and execute it at the right time.”

Both players will certainly be hoping to have their hard work pay off as a good performance at these championships could open a number of different doors for them in terms of sponsorships and global awareness that would be pivotal before they break into the professional circuit.

First Published: Jul 28, 2019 16:39 IST

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