Asian Games: Sunayna ready to play supporting act

Sunayna, along with Tanvi Khanna, will be playing second fiddle to the higher-ranked Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa. But she is looking forward to play that role well and contribute to the team.

Sunayna Kuruvilla will be featuring in her first Asian Games this September.   -  V. Ganesan

Sunayna Kuruvilla was on Saturday named in the eight-member squash squad travelling to the Asian Games in August.

The 19-year old squash player, who will be playing in her first Asian Games, is excited about the opportunity and glad that her hard work came to fruition.

She had nurtured the dream ever since India‘s successful squash campaign in Asian Games 2014. “It is absolutely overwhelming. I worked really hard for this. I remember when we won four medals four years ago and I really hoped I could make the team for the next games. And I’m really glad I could,” she said. 

But she believes it was not a sole effort and she owes her good fortune to many others.

“It was the result of combined efforts of the entire team behind me at the Indian Squash Academy. I’m really grateful to coach Achraf el Karargui. I also have to thank my family and friends who supported me throughout,” she said. Achraf el Karargui quit as India's foreign coach just before the Commonwealth Games due to differences with the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI), but the Egyptian has kept in touch with players like Sunayna and Dipika Pallikal.

Sunayna, who made it to the team through the trials in Chennai, was confident that she would make the cut. “I knew I had a sure shot before the trials, but I still n eeded to win all the matches and I’m glad that I was able to do that.”

Although she is thrilled to be a part of the tournament, she said she is aiming for much more.

“I’ve never been a person that’s been satisfied with just getting selected. Winning a medal, reaching the finals would be a really big deal for me.”

The world No. 91 is not perturbed by the challenge at the international level. After taking part in the SAF games in 2017 and the WSF World Team Championship alongside Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal, she is familiar with the international arena. But she is aware of the massive task ahead of her and the difference in the standard of play.

“The difference at the top is that those players are a lot smarter on court and more economical with their movements.”

“It’s not just about being ultra-fit or strong. It’s about how smart you are on the court. And to be able to reach that level, you need to continuously play matches. I believe it comes out of experience,” she said.

She believes being tactically sound can help them go the distance at the Games. “Having a good tactical plan can make a big difference. If we stick to that plan then there’s absolutely no looking back,” she said.

Sunayna, along with Tanvi Khanna, will be playing second fiddle to the higher-ranked Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa. But she is looking forward to play that role well and contribute to the team.

“Obviously our first two are really strong players, but we wouldn’t want to put all the pressure on them. Tanvi and I are not very far apart, the girl is really good. If we continue to work really hard and smart, we can play the role of a third person really well and take the pressure off the top two.”

With a berth in the Asian Games confirmed, Sunayna is keen to begin practice soon. “I’ll take a day or two off and then I’m back to the grind. I’m not someone who likes to relax a lot. The squash court is my happy place.”