This Yash is born for squash!

At the Fadte home, a win or loss is evaluated, analysed and lessons noted, before moving to the next goal.

Yash Fadte in action against Yannick Wilhelmi of Switzerland in the WSF World junior boys' team squash championship in Chennai in July 2018. For someone who is only 17, Yash displays a maturity beyond his years.   -  S. R. Raghunathan

Yash Fadte was just seven years old, when he refused to leave the Naval squash courts in the port town of Vasco da Gama, Goa without playing a game. As his father, Dilip, a former Goa Ranji trophy cricketer recalled, “This was the third consecutive day, that Yash had accompanied me to the Naval squash courts and had not got a chance to hit the ball. There were too many players and he was not getting a shot at the game. He began crying and refused to leave the courts. Some of the Naval officers who noticed this, immediately allowed him to play.”

According to the doting father, Yash took to squash like a duck to water. “For one so young, he began stroking the ball with great confidence. A Mumbai squash player who saw him six months later, suggested that Yash play some tournaments in Mumbai,” Dilip said.

Taking part in the prestigious, Bombay Gymkhana open squash tournament in the under-8 age group category, Yash finished runner-up. The proud father showed off the newspaper cutting of the little Yash holding his first trophy stating, “Look, how tiny he is!” This is how Yash’s squash saga began.

That was circa 2008. Yash has not looked back since, almost always managing a podium finish.

Yash has won the Indian Junior Open squash title four times, most recently on December 23, 2018, the US Open Junior title in December 2017, the German Open Junior title in 2014 and the Hong Kong Open Junior title in 2012, among many others.

Father Dilip Fadte and mother Geetha give a lot of attention to Yash and his twin brother Om, a budding cricketer.   -  Special Arrangement

 

When this correspondent visited the Fadte home on Christmas eve, recently, Yash had just returned in the wee hours from Mumbai having bagged his fourth Indian Junior Open Squash championship.

If one looked for any signs of celebrations or a display of his latest trophy on the centre table, there was none. As one realised soon enough, at the Fadte home, a win or loss is evaluated, analysed and lessons noted, before moving to the next goal.

There are distinct goals that have been set and Yash is pursuing them with a steely determination. He said: “The next big goal is the Asian Junior Team championships scheduled for mid-January in Pattaya, Thailand. I am looking forward to this challenge.”

However, the bigger goal is the World Junior championships in Malaysia in mid-July 2019. “My best performance at the World Junior level has been a top-16 finish and I am determined to do better this year,” said the articulate player.

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For someone who is only 17, Yash displays a maturity beyond his years. Right from the time I made my first phone call to him, to fix our interview and requested for the coordinates of his fitness guru, squash coach etc, he handled everything with finesse and aplomb. Quite like his game, I guess.

Perhaps, Yash’s maturity could have something to do with the hard work he has been putting in for the last 10 years. Dilip explained, “Yash soon outgrew the Navy courts in Vasco. His standards kept rising and he needed long hours of practice, with a training partner, which was not possible in Goa.”

Fortunately for the Fadtes, Yash’s on-court achievements were noticed by the squash committee of Mumbai’s prestigious Cricket Club of India (CCI), which embraced the Goan player as one of its own. This allows Yash access to one of the best training facilities in the country.

Since 2013, Yash has been flying to Mumbai every Saturday morning to play a total of six, two-hour sessions over Saturday and Sunday at the CCI courts. He returns to Goa in the wee hours of Monday, in time to attend his class XII commerce college.

“This routine has now become a part of my life,” said Yash. Dilip added, “The CCI has become our second home now!."

Yash has turned the lack of squash facilities in Goa to his advantage. “I spend most of my time in Goa working on my fitness. When I was just 10 years old, I began free hand and flexibility exercises with my fitness guru, Rainer Dias. Now, I also do scientific weight training under his guidance, which has made me one of the fittest players on the circuit,” Yash said with pride.

Yash Fadte (sixth from left) along with the winners of different categories at the National sub-junior and junior squash championship in Chennai in November 2014.   -  M. Vedhan

 

Speaking about his favourite trainee, Rainer, a three-time ‘Mr India’ bodybuilding champion said, “More than talent, it is an athlete’s dedication that determines how easy or difficult the job of the trainer is. In Yash’s case, it has been a joy working with him. His dedication, focus and unwavering adherence to training and nutrition protocols have made him the ideal student.”

According to Rainer, Yash understood early in his career that it is the simple things, done right and done consistently, that make all the difference. “He has had very little access to fancy training facilities or training partners, yet he has been able to reach the highest level of international squash. All that Yash has is his dedication and an amazingly supportive family. All aspiring Indian athletes should be encouraged on hearing the Yash story,” Rainer said.

Father Dilip has been Yash’s first coach. “I learnt to play squash much later in life and hence I coached Yash by observing his game closely and talking to each of his opponent’s coaches. You will be surprised how much one learns with their inputs. This helped in ironing out Yash’s early defects,” Dilip said.

Yash’s present coach is Ahmedabad-based Amit Chinai. Amit, a seasoned squash player, admits that it was Yash’s athletic ability that caught his eye immediately. “Yash is a fantastic athlete and it is his hunger to learn and a burning desire to improve his game that appeals to me the most. As a coach I always set high goals for my players and I feel Yash has the potential to achieve them. Our focus would remain on working hard and working smart and letting the racquet do the talking,” Amit said.

Vasco-based Nitin Bandekar, a close family friend of the Fadtes, echoes coach Amit’s thoughts. “I have seen Yash play a couple of final matches and the one feature that stands out against all his opponents is his temperament. He is very strong in the head and this will take him very far,” Nitin said.

It is clear that Yash is blessed with a very supportive family. Father Dilip used to run a barge operations company ferrying iron ore to the Vasco port. However, with the mining ban in force in Goa, his business has suffered.

But that has not stopped him from putting his best foot forward. “It costs me roughly 15 lakh rupees every year to support Yash’s squash career and his twin brother Om’s cricketing career. I have broken fixed deposits and borrowed money, but I am not giving up the dream,” said the determined father.

Fortunately for the Fadtes, GoSports Foundation, the athlete management company, recently signed Yash for its ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ programme, which will see it support him monetarily, with equipment, physiotherapy and mentorship.

Also, ever since Yash was crowned the US Junior Squash champion, several American Universities including Harvard and Princeton have been writing to him with sports scholarship offers to pursue an undergraduate programme with them.

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The Fadtes are an extremely affable lot and they graciously invited this correspondent for a Goan vegetarian thali meal on the afternoon of this interview. This gave Yash’s mother Geeta a chance to speak about her champion son’s nutrition. “We rarely eat out and his basic nutrition is a well-balanced home cooked meal. I serve him poha or upma for breakfast with eggs. Lunch is invariably, our Goan staple of fish-curry rice with plenty of salads and vegetables, while dinner is usually a mixed vegetable soup with light wheat phulkas,” Geeta said.

Yash admits he likes to break this routine by eating pastas at the CCI over the weekends. “Yes, the CCI food is very good, but I stick only to pastas and avoid spicy and oily food at all times, especially when on tour,” he said.

Yash shares a very loving relationship with Om, who is a reserve player in the Goa Under-19 cricket squad. Om who is a left-handed opening batsman, also bowls slow, left-arm spin. “I observe Om’s game whenever I get a chance and discuss it with my father, who in turn offers suggestions to Om,” Yash said.

Rahul Chandawarkar, a former newspaper editor, is a Goa-based communication strategist and active triathlete.