All eyes on Saurav, Joshna at Squash Senior Nationals

Joshna Chinappa and Saurav Ghosal will be the overwhelming favourites when the Senior National squash championships begin on Sunday.

JOSHNA CHINAPPA

Joshan Chinappa has won the Senior National Squash Championships a whopping 17 times.   -  PTI

Joshna Chinappa and Saurav Ghosal will be the overwhelming favourites when the Senior National squash championships begins at the Indian Squash Academy (ISA) courts here on Sunday. The main draw begins on February 12, while the qualification matches will start on Sunday with a record 402 entries.

Thirty-three-year-old Joshna has won the women’s title a whopping 17 times and Saurav, also 33 years old, an equally impressive 12 times in men’s.

The multiple National champions, nevertheless, don’t want to take anything for granted and are keen to extend their vice-like grip on the trophy. “For me, the Nationals is like any PSA tour event. I come prepared. I don’t take it for granted. Players like Tanvi Khanna and Sunayna Kuruvilla are regulars on the [World] tour and are improving,” said Joshna.

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Saurav said he’s eager to do well in Chennai. “It’s important and responsible on our part to play in the Nationals as much as possible to show the next generation what we are capable of. It is the biggest event on the domestic calendar,” he said.

Joshna’s main challenger will be Sunayna, the second seed. The 20-year-old is riding a wave, having achieved a career-high PSA world ranking of 67 this month, thanks to her stints with Ashraf El Karargui in Cairo and Malcolm Willstrop in England.

Sunayna, who reached the final of the previous Nationals in Pune, said she is not looking that far ahead. “I would love to win the Nationals. But I am taking it one match at a time.”

Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu (seeded 3/4) has been rather inconsistent after winning the coveted National title in 2014 in Mumbai. He had a back injury while playing in the semifinals of the 2018 Senior Nationals when he conceded the match to Vikram Malhotra, and didn’t compete last year. Now, the 30-year-old, one of the first trainees at ISA, is fighting  to regain fitness and is confident of taking on Saurav and Ramit Tandon, the second seed. “I am feeling good, We will see how it goes,” said Harinder.

It is a 16-player main draw with eight qualifiers each in men and women coming through.