Squash player Velavan Senthilkumar looks to get back on track this year

Unhappy with his performances in the past two to three years, Velavan Senthilkumar believes this year could give him the chance to bounce back.

After Velavan Senthilkumar (21) won his 2017 British Junior Open squash U-19 boys’ title, he played a few PSA tournaments in South Africa, reaching the final and semifinal in a couple of tournaments and thereby getting to a men’s PSA ranking of 203.

He then went to the United States to train better and study in the Columbia University. Senthilkumar says that he didn’t play the PSA World Tour for roughly a year. Then, he won the Madison Open for his first PSA title.

“That happened in between my exams,” he says. “That, I think, took me to the 200s in the PSA ranking. Then, I didn’t play for a year, and I’m back now,” he comments referring to the ongoing Chennai leg of the HCL-SRFI India tour (PSA Challenger tour) he’s playing.

The 21-year-old has kept playing university level tournaments in the US, but not the PSA World Tour. When asked what happened, he said, “I was struggling, with my academics on one hand. I was struggling to find the balance, and I kind of fell out of training,” he says.

He says the heavy workload that came with his preferred subject in his undergraduate course forced him to switch to another subject. “I was doing Statistics. I just had like long hours of assignments, was sleeping at, like, 3 or 4 a.m., and had to wake up, like, at 8 a.m. for my training sessions. I feel it is unreasonable for an athlete.

“My sleep patterns went haywire. Now, I’m doing Psychology. And maintaining my diet there, like sticking to the diet chart that my diet management firm prepares is so hard.”

He also seems to be thinking and handling too much, having done a one-month summer course on fashion business in Paris this year. “My dad's into garment manufacturing. So, if at all I want to take over my dad's business later on... I was training there too. Like, while I was doing the course.

“I'm in the phase where I'm trying to find the right thing for me. But I know for sure that squash is always gonna be there. That's gonna be my top priority for as long as I can play. And then, these are, like, my options. Like, if I’m unable to continue playing squash in case of an injury, or any worst circumstance, I wanna set these things straight, so that I can get into what I want to whenever I retire.”

Suffering muscle strain under his feet now, he says he’s leaving to Barcelona to exclusively train at the Barcelona Global Squash Academy (BGS) for a year, which was suggested by his elder brother and former squash player Guhan Senthilkumar. He adds he will try and play tournaments in between and aims to play the Mumbai leg of the HCL-SRFI India tour in December after an around two-month training.  

“I'm not happy with my performances for the past two-three years, after my junior years. I think this year would give me that opportunity to get back on track. Hopefully, I'll do that. I'm really confident that I will be back. It's just gonna take some time. Like, at least six months of training and I should be back.”