Finally, a chance for Joshna-Dipika clash in India

Two years ago Dipika won a five-game humdinger against Joshna in the quarterfinals of the Incheon Asian Games.

A file picture of Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal.   -  M. Vedhan

The much-awaited clash between the two Chennai girls, Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal is likely to happen in the title round of the 73rd senior National squash championship at the Otters Club.

Joshna, two months away from turning 30, became the second Indian woman to break into the top 10 in the world rankings announced a few days ago. She has won the senior National title 12 times — four short of Bhuvneshwari ‘Candy’ Kumari’s 16 — and she has been given the top billing for the senior Nationals that start with the qualifying rounds on Tuesday.

Dipika is 24, has won the senior national title once and has entered the nationals after five years. She held a world no. 10 ranking four years ago, but she is currently ranked no. 19.

In a draw of 64, no other woman player is expected to advance as far as the finals and upset the applecart of the two champion players in Joshna and Dipika and the fact that they have not met each other in India as often as they have overseas, makes the prospective skirmish interesting. Two years ago Dipika won a five-game humdinger against Joshna in the quarterfinals of the Incheon Asian Games. Joshna enjoys a 9-3 win record against her famous rival of recent times.

“I have enjoyed playing the nationals since I was 12 and it is one domestic tournament I look forward to in the year. It is something I have to be a part of every year. I had a lot of competition while playing the senior Nationals early on in my career as a junior, and winning it then was hard. Now, it will be even harder playing against Dipika,’’ said Joshna in a release from the Otters Club.

On her part, Dipika, who won the title in 2011, has said she is looking forward to playing in the Nationals after five years. It’s being speculated that bringing parity in prize money — an all-time high of Rs. 1.25 lakh for the men and women’s singles winners — has attracted all the top players.

Ghosal tops draw

Saurav Ghosal who needs one more title win to equal R. K. Narpat Singh’s record of 10 National title wins, lead’s the men’s draw; he’s followed by Mahesh Mangaonkar, Vikram Malhotra and Harinderpal Singh Sandhu. “The nationals is an extremely prestigious event on the domestic calendar and I believe it is the responsibility of the top players to participate to showcase the best of Indian squash. Every national title is earned and this year should be no different. It is good to see the depth of Indian squash at this point and I hope it continues in the same vein in the years to come,’’ said Ghosal, back in action after an injury break.

Other noted players in the men’s draw are Ravi Dixit, the Mumbai quartet of Mangaonkar, Aryaman Adik of the host club and who has been selected to play for India in the under-19 World junior championships in Poland, Vikram Malhotra, Veer Chotrani, Kush Kumar, Delhi’s Gaurav Nandrajog, and Tamil Nadu’s Velavan Senthilkumar.

The senior Nationals has received 440 entries. “This is the second time the Otters Club is hosting the Nationals after 2002 when our very own Manish Chotrani was the champion. We have renovated the glass-back courts to match international standards,’’ said the club president Mustafa Arsiwala.

Apart from the men's and women’s singles competition, the senior nationals will also see action in the professional coach category, men’s over-35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60. The main draw for all categories will start on Thursday.