Squash championship in Pune: Playing with seniors a great opportunity, says 12-yr-old
12-year-old Teerth Jilka might not be playing in the main stages of the 76th Senior National Squash Championship, but the exposure he has received playing the qualifiers will certainly go a long way in making him a better player. The Pune boy managed to pull off a comfortable win over Ashiq Hameed Mir on day one of the nationals, but went down fighting to 20-year-old and 57/88th seed Aditya Rajpal in the second qualifying round. Playing against someone nearly twice his age was certainly a different experience for the teenager. Jilka speaks to Pranav Shahaney and shares just how important it is to have such tournaments in the city.
A bittersweet qualifying journey in your first-ever senior national championship. What did you make of your performance?
I think I did really well in both the games. What happened in the second match was that I came up against an opponent who was highly experienced and one who was almost twice my age. So I was at an immediate disadvantage, but I still felt that I gave a very good account of myself and did well in all three games. I still think I could’ve reduced the number of mistakes that I made, but this was definitely a learning experience for me.
What sort of an impact will a tournament like this have on the younger players in the city?
It’s really important for us at this stage of our career to play a national level tournament in our hometown. We don’t even need to travel out of the city and we can play against some really good players, watch them play, and improve our grasp on the sport too.
What have you gained from your interaction with senior players who have played at the national/international levels?
I did meet a few national players today and I’ve conversed with them previously too. It’s refreshing to see their take on the sport and it gives me some hope for the future as well. I can really mould myself as per them and become a better player. I talked to a few of them and they were encouraging me and telling me how to deal with different situations in a match. So, as youngsters, I feel that this a fantastic opportunity to meet our squash heroes.
Do you think having tournaments like this one and the district championship that took place recently, is the right way to develop squash in the city?
Squash in Pune is certainly developing. Players from outside the city also come to compete in a few open tournaments which helps spread awareness about the game. Thus, I feel it’s growing at a really fast rate and I’m optimistic for the future of squash in the city.
This tournament will also have matches played in a glass court. Your thoughts on the court and how different it is from the ones you’ve been playing on?
I personally haven’t seen how the court is, but I’ve heard a lot of good things. The glass courts are really bouncy, much more than the normal ones which we play on here. The points will be longer and that’ll tire the players out and due to it being covered by glass on all three sides, it takes a lot more strength to hit the ball and make it come on the back court.