Joshna, Dipika credit Achraf’s presence at foreign tours for improvement

Foreign coach Achraf El Karagui will travel abroad with Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal for select PSA tournaments, depending on the importance of the championships and his availability among other things.

Achraf El Karagui said that both Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal are top 10 material and the duo have to plan well and imbibe mental strength.   -  V. Ganesan

For the major part of their playing careers, two of India’s finest squash players — Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal — went to professional tour events abroad without a coach. And it did affect their performances for they did not have an expert by their side to point out the mistakes and suggest rectifications.

So, when Achraf El Karagui, India’s foreign coach, travelled with Joshna and Dipika to the British Open and the World Championship in El Gouna, Egypt, this year, it did them a world of good.

Huge difference

For India’s top player Joshna, ranked 14 in the world, it did make a huge difference.

“It was great to see Achraf travelling with us [for tournaments]. He really helped me deconstruct my game. It has helped me a lot,” Joshna, the newly-crowned Asian champion, said.

“I prefer Achraf travel for the coming season.”

Dipika, on her part, said that she can rest assured that Achraf plans out her matches.

“I have been training with Achraf for the last eight months. A lot of things have changed in my game. I am feeling a lot more confident and lighter. He is someone who breaks down my game really well. I slept very comfortably thinking that Achraf will be in my corner,” said Dipika, who is ranked 22 in the world.

Cyrus Poncha, the national coach, said that Achraf will go abroad for select PSA tournaments depending on the importance of the championships and his availability among other things.

“It will be a mix of small and big tournaments. Other than Achraf, I (along with few others) will travel for some pro tour events abroad,” he said.

Top 10 material

El Karagui said that both Joshna and Dipika are top 10 material and the duo have to plan well and imbibe mental strength.

“Dipika and Joshna are playing really high quality [squash]. They deserve to be top 10 players in the world. They just need to have a plan to do. I give them the mental support. National coach Cyrus [Poncha] and N. Ramachandran (patron, SRFI) are doing their best to get them into the top 10,” he said.

El Karagui has completed nine months as the country’s foreign coach. With the one-year contract coming to an end soon, does he wish to continue? The Egyptian said it is at the discussion stage.

“I am planning to continue. We are discussing [it]. I think I will continue,” he said.

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