Squash fans at Bandra’s Otters Club and the 14-time national champion Joshna Chinappa were stunned by the turn-around caused by Dipika Pallikal Karthik in the women’s final of the 73rd senior National championship here on Sunday.
Beaten hollow in the seven-minute opening game, the 24-year-old picked up the pieces swiftly with an array of shots and eventually outsmarted and outplayed seasoned campaigner 4-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-8 in less than three-quarter of an hour.
Dipika put Joshna through the wringer, and made her visibly extremely anxious. It was Dipika’s second National title after her maiden win in 2011. It was a foregone conclusion that Joshna and Dipika would play the final in draw that had 64 players.
Dipika entered the championship because the authorities relented to award equal prize money for men and women. “I have never played for money; if I wanted to, I would have played some other sport. It’s all about respect. I have been vocal about it. The prize money is equal in major tournaments in the world,” she said, at the post-match press interaction.
Joshna has been practising here for almost two years and the crowd was quite happy to see her fire the first salvo. But Dipika did not fret at all. “It’s always difficult when you are 0-7 down. I think I did not play a tight game in the first. But in the second game, though I did not have a solid game-plan, I kept the ball in play.
“My forehand is strong and I have been working on my backhand. I have changed the swing and it’s been a work in progress with coach Sarah (Fitzgerald) for three years. It was a clean match and both of us were keen to win,” said Dipika.
When asked if it was a conscious decision not to really exult, Dipika said: “Yes. It was a relief for me. I had not won a title for a long time and Joshna has been playing really well, breaking into the top ten. It was a relief and somewhere mum and dad will be happy.”
Looking for her 15th title, Joshna made a confident start, but was perhaps rattled by her rival’s calm and collected game. “I wanted to display a good game. Perhaps I was defensive from the second game onwards. She (Dipika) played a lot better,” said Joshna.