Dipika Pallikal Karthik: 'Looking forward to getting back to circuit'

The 29-year-old Dipika is confident of getting back to peak fitness soon and be back on the PSA tour.

Deepika Pallikal..."I never interacted with anyone when I took the break and I think I am fresh to come back and have a lot more to contribute." - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Dipika Pallikal Karthik has not played competitive squash for more than two years now due to an ankle injury. She last played in the US Open, a PSA Platinum Tour event in Philadelphia in October 2018. The first Indian to be ranked 10th in the world [in 2012], she is now ranked 351st. She again incurred a knee injury in Egypt where she went to practice early this year.

But the 29-year-old is not heartbroken and is confident of getting back to peak fitness soon and be back on the International (PSA) tour. “I want to play the Commonwealth and Asian Games next year - that’s the aim. I have a lot more to contribute,” she says in this exclusive interview to Sportstar.

Q. You’ve informed Squash Rackets Federation of India that you will most probably recover by May-end and are looking at Commonwealth Games camp or the International tour?

A. Overall, I am looking at everything. I think I want to get back to the circuit. To play in the CWG and Asian Games - that’s the next big aim as well.

The period from 2018 till now when you didn’t take part in any tournament, how was this period?

It’s a decision that I had to take. I needed a break from the sport. If I had to make a comeback, I thought ‘better come back fresh’. I am looking forward to getting back on the circuit.

How excited are you to get back to peak fitness, with the promotional campaign of ‘Impossible is nothing’?

I am excited to come back and look forward to the circuit. I am keen to travel and play matches on a regular basis. Obviously there are goals that I want to achieve. I am doing all the hard work and more still remains. Obviously, it is harder to get back to where I was. ‘Impossible is nothing’ promotion concept is apt [for me] because I’ve been through a lot in the last two years. And it’s made me stronger. I am looking forward [to play] on the circuit.

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There might be a second CWG camp soon in Chennai. Will you be part of the camp?

I think it is too far ahead. I am taking one day at a time. I am not going to plan too far ahead. I am thinking of getting back to court slowly. Preparing for the CWG and Asian Games coming. Indian squash players doing well. Senior players such as Saurav [Ghosal], Joshna [Chinappa], Vikram [Malhotra]. Harinder [Pal Sandhu] and Mahesh [Mangaonkar] and Ramit [Tandon]. We have a whole year to go by.

It’s a long-term process to think about what is going to happen.  We will get a concrete answer in the six-seven months as to the team[s] for CWG and Asian Games. I’m looking forward to getting back on the circuit first and then see what happens.

Any target in terms of rankings and number of tournaments you are going to play?

When I am without pain, that’s when I am going to start thinking about playing tournaments.

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How is your right knee now?

It’s fine and am in my rehab phase and I am getting better.

After you and Joshna Chinappa, there aren’t any bright prospects among women?

 These girls have to be brave and have confidence in their decisions. I think sport is a very male dominated profession. Now a lot of things have changed as many tournaments are there for women as well. Girls have to train hard and sacrifice to shine in the profession.

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What motivated you to get back?

I wanted a break from squash. It was not about getting motivated.  I was in the top 20. I was neither moving up nor coming down. So it was a decision I had to take. And I’m someone, who truly believes that ‘I don't like to be in the same place’. I wanted to go to the top and it wasn’t happening and I was training harder too.

I don't think many people would have taken a decision at that stage of their career. I am very proud of the fact that I did. I took my total time off squash. I never interacted with anyone when I took the break and I think I am fresh to come back and have a lot more to contribute.