Services’ Vijay Kumar leaned back on his chair, clinching his fist and pointing to his friend the victory sign after he confidently put it across Rahul Baitha of Maharashtra, seeded (3/4) 11-6, 13-11, 11-3 in the men’s first round of the HCL-78th Senior National squash championships at the ISTA here on Wednesday.
This was a huge win for the 26-year-old, who is a junior commissioned officer in the Army. He hadn’t touched the racquet for more than two and a half years due to Covid-19 and a lower back injury.
The inter-Services tournament in Chandigarh in November this year provided him with the required match practice. Vijay played his best reaching the individual singles final and winning the team gold for Army. “It was tough playing the team and individual in Chandigarh. I lost to Sandeep Jangra in the singles final but beat him in the team final. That was really satisfying. Those matches were good preparation for me,” Vijay told Sportstar.
Actually, the last big tournament Vijay played was the Senior Nationals in Chennai in February 2020. He will now take on Sandeep Jangra in the second round on Thursday.
Tamil Nadu’s Navaneeth Prabhu, the second seed, escaped with a 10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-4 victory over Ravi Dixit of Haryana in the first round. Leading by two games to one, Navaneeth took a time-out at 8-10 in the fourth game, after injuring his palm and right knee. Though he lost the fourth game, Navaneeth retreived well to win the fifth game and the match. Navaneeth will next meet Harinderpal Singh, a former champion.
Meanwhile, top seeds in men and women, Tamil Nadu’s Abhay Singh and Joshna Chinappa won with relative ease to enter the second round.
The results (round of 16, first round)
Men: Abhay Singh (TN) bt Naveen Jangra (SSCB) 11-8, 11-2, 8-11, 11-4; Suraj Chand (Mah) bt Vikas Mehra (TN) 11-9, 10-12, 7-11, 11-4, 11-8; Sandeep Jangra (SSCB) bt Vaibhav Chauhan (SSCB) 11-3, 11-2, 11-7; Vijay Kumar (SSCB) bt Rahul Baitha (Mah) 11-6, 13-11, 11-3; Veer Chotrani (Mah) bt Kanhav Nanavati (TN) 11-8, 11-5, 11-5; S. Velavan (TN) bt Ranjit Singh (SSCB) 11-8, 11-5, 11-3; Harinderpal Singh (TN) bt Jamal Sakib (SSCB) 11-2, 11-8, 12-10; Navaneeth Prabhu (TN) bt Ravi Dixit (Har) 10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-4.
Women: Joshna Chinappa (TN) bt Yashi Jain (Raj) 11-3, 11-6, 11-6; Anjali Semwal (Mah) bt Subhadra Nair (Ker) 11-2, 11-2, 11-3; Akansha Salunkhe (Goa) bt Rathika Seelan (TN) 11-4, 11-4, 11-5; Janet Vidhi (Mah) bt Shameena Riaz (TN) 11-3, 4-11, 11-6, 13-11; Urwashi Joshi (Mah) bt R. Pooja Arthi (TN) 11-5, 11-8, 11-7; Tanishka Jain (Mah) bt Sanika Choudhari (Del) 9-11, 4-11, 11-1, 11-7; 11-5; Tanvi Khanna (Del) bt Sunita Patel (Mah) 11-3, 13-11, 11-2; Anahat Singh (Del) bt Sushmita Panigrahi (Goa) 11-2, 11-2, 11-0.