It was a heady climax as Joshna Chinappa won her 16th title and Mahesh Mangaonkar pipped Vikram Malhotra in a thriller to win his maiden crown in the HCL 75th National Squash Championship at the HCL Hub here on Sunday.
Watched by an appreciative audience in the picturesque setting of the HCL headquarters, Joshna overcame a stiff start to outplay the second seed Urwashi Joshi 9-11, 11-1, 11-6, 11-5.
With the title, Joshna, who had won her maiden women’s crown in 2000 as a 14-year-old, equalled Bhuvaneshwari Kumari’s record of 16 national titles.
Much in contrast, top seed Mahesh survived three championship points and an intense battle to beat Vikram 11-4, 13-15, 11-2, 5-11, 15-13, in an entertaining battle that kept everyone glued and the match officials on their toes.
What set the tone was the manner in which Vikram overcame a sedate start and fought hard from 9-9 in the second game, withstanding many repeat of the point owing to "let", saving a game point to be on par. Thereafter, fortunes kept swinging as the two energetic young men indulged in an explosive game of brute power, lending remarkable touch with their uncanny placements and drops, to make it a high quality fare.
"I had lost to him two years ago in the PSA final. Happy that I hung in really tough today. I could have played a lot better, but I am happy with the national title. I am happy to have pulled it off in that tough fifth game, it was a mental battle, and we were playing at the same level," said Mahesh, quite thrilled with the execution.
Mahesh had lost the final to 12-time national champion Saurav Ghosal last year, and was forced to earn the title the hard way.
Joshna felt that the unpredictability of the domestic rivals, in the absence of Dipika Pallikal, often tended to make her lose focus. It was "crazy" to play with so much of sunlight on the court, and that was a little unsettling for Joshna.
"Urwashi has great hands and played the best that I had seen her. I love playing the national championship. Mekhala Subedar and Dipika have been the best that I have played so far. These girls are getting better, very unpredictable and that motivates me to play better. They need opportunities to play the PSA Tour and get good coaching. They need to find their own path. I am feeling on top of my game, and getting to a new coach Hadrian Stiff and a physical trainer has made a lot of good to my game," said Joshna.
Praising Bhuvaneshwari for winning 16 titles on the trot in the National championships, Joshna was quite clear that she would love to have more titles and be the highest ever.
Men: Mahesh Mangaonkar bt Vikram Malhotra 11-4, 13-15, 11-2, 5-11, 15-13.
Women: Joshna Chinappa bt Urwashi Joshi 9-11, 11-1, 11-6, 11-5.
Over-35: Rishad Pandole bt Manish Chotrani 13-11, 8-11, 11-4, 11-5.
Over-40: Saurabh Nayar bt Hemant Nadkarni 11-3, 13-11, 11-3.
Over-45: Dalip Tripathi bt Jatin Bery 11-5, 11-4, 11-3.
Over-50: Aashish Kamat bt Lalit Advani 11-5, 11-3, 13-11.
Over-55: Dushyant Jamwal bt Ashun Bahl 11-7, 11-6, 11-9.
Over-60: Lalit Kumar Agnihotri bt Swagat Bam 12-10, 11-7, 12-10.
Over-65: Rajiv Reddy bt Rajan Gupta 11-5, 11-7, 10-12, 11-4.
Professional coach: Parmeet Singh bt Parthiban Ayyappan 11-5, 11-9, 11-4.
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