Singapore's Sneha taking giant strides on squash court

Sneha Sivakumar has reached the quarterfinals World Junior Squash Championships with an upset win over Egypt’s Ingy Hammouda.

17-year-old Sneha Sivakumar is the only Singaporean in contention in the individual championships.   -  S. R. Raghunathan

Singapore’s Sneha Sivakumar is on a roll. The 17-year-old, who is the only woman representative from Singapore in the World Junior Squash Championships this year, is now the only Singaporean in contention in the individual championships. She reached the quarterfinals with an upset win over Egypt’s Ingy Hammouda at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai.

Her first victim, Aira Azman is a British U-15 champion while her second is a reigning English Junior U19 Championship and fifth seed Elise Lazarus. On Friday, she quelled the challenge of Egypt’s Ingy Hammouda in a five-game battle to reach the last-eight. It has quite literally been “upset after an upset after an upset” from the racquets of the 17-year-old, with roots in India. 

“It hasn’t registered yet that I have reached the quarterfinals and will be playing at a mall. I didn’t think I would win even the first match. On the first day, my father thought they recorded the score wrongly against the British player. He didn’t believe I won until I called and shared the news. Naturally, my parents were elated,” she says.

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What was most striking about her wins was that she didn’t stick to a single style of play. If she played fast-paced game in the first match, she resorted to frustrating her opponent with a slower drive-dominated game plan in the second. The third against the Egyptian was more about mixing it up. “It was a very different match compared to Day 1 because the English player was a bit more basic. And the Egyptian was going for all her shots. I just decided to hang in there. My idea was to keep running until you can’t run anymore and wait for her to buckle. It worked,” the Scottish Junior U19 champion says.

“It’s a really good day for Singapore squash. I don’t think it has ever happened in the history of Singapore that anybody has made it to the quarters. I am very happy,” the Grade 11 student adds.

Born to parents with strong educational background — her father is an IIT graduate and a banker while her mother is an engineer in Singapore — there is always the pressure to balance academics and squash. “In Singapore, there is always the need to do well academically and it’s been very tough. I definitely made a lot of sacrifices. When I am back home, I am just studying, training and sleeping. There is not really much time for anything else and I think all the hard work and sacrifice has paid off. I am very happy.”

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Sneha credits the development in her game to Malaysian coaches like technical director Allan Soyz who was recruited last year in a bid to revive squash in Singapore. “They have been of big help. They have really helped in bettering our techniques and that is showing in the results,” she says.

Singapore, in fact, is fielding a team for the World men’s team championship for the first time since 2004.  

With her parents hailing from Chennai, she is a frequent traveller to the city. She is hoping to see her relatives cheer for her at the mall. “I think my cousins will be there at the mall. I am looking forward to getting their support and continue my fine form. For now, my plan is to recover as fast as I can, take some electrolytes, eat well and just relax.”