The swift retrieving and agile mind displayed on the court did not indicate the anxiety inside Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu’s mind. Like draping a veil over a torn fabric, the Indian buzzed around the court at the Willingdon Sports Club, as if on wheels.

“There are things on court I cannot do. I won’t tell,” quipped the smiling champion, soaking in the winning feeling after the 11-5, 11-6, 11-7 verdict at the PSA Challenger Tour event.

Ready to fight for every point at the HCL SRFI Indian Squash Tour third leg, he brushed aside the 120-ranked Tomotaka Endo in three games for the men's open title.

The powerful Japanese may have known about the fitness issues dogging his rival over a year and may have planned to take advantage of Harinder, supposedly tentative about the load on his body in the rehabilitation phase, following a back injury.

He became familiar with medical terms like disc bulges, nerve impingements and scoliosis.

Harinder got sharper with each winner and celebrated each point like an escape from a road to hell and back. The Indian has been advised “dos and don’ts” by the sports medicine experts, he did the dos smartly enough to walk away an easy winner.

For those watching through the glass back at WSC, applauding the strokes and angles deployed with deadly effect, applauding his mobility on court and whiplash shots, life was a dark tunnel for Harinder during this time in 2018 and afterwards.

“I have to give 200 per cent in every match to move ahead. I have not fully recovered,” he said, adding: “2019 was very painful, very depressing after getting injured last December. The thought that I may not be able to play again. It took three months to get free from the pain. Squash was not even in my mind, I just wanted to be well, be usual again.”

Harinder won four matches en route to a coveted title, triumphing Czech Republic’s Ondrej Uherka in a match stretching almost one hour.

“This whole week was tough, I was not playing up to my mark. I told myself to hang in there till the match turns in my favour, because I am playing in my home country and even when you are not doing well, there is a lot of crowd support.”

He credited the experts at the Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance Centre and Primal Patterns (specialists in peak performance fitness training) for recovery.

The Indian Squash Academy welcomed his return to the court after rehabilitation and motivated him. “They helped me re-educate my body, how to lift things, how to bend properly. My body was not the same it was for so many years, so I went through a full re-education. I took it day by day, week by week,” he said.

New Year resolutions include lasting the course in two tournaments early in 2020, for a pro with a career-high 47 ranking in 2018.

“I hope my body holds and I will be able to carry this form in the Jaipur leg of HCL SRFI Indian Tour in January and the Senior Nationals in February.” With trophy in hand, the ready smile takes over, covering up whatever he went through just to get back on to a squash court.