Mahesh Mangaonkar - surging ahead with an eye on the future

The 25-year-old, adapting to a tough life as a travelling professional, has also been planning and clearing the decks for a post-retirement career in the sport.

Eye on the ball: Mahesh Mangaonkar, currently the World No. 53, hopes to break into the top 50.   -  AP

Indian sporting achievers take the European route to gain big-match experience and improve their position in the world rankings. Saurav Ghosal (World No. 10 among men), Joshna Chinappa (World No. 13 among women) are the highest-ranked Indians on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) tour to have benefitted from long-term exposure in England.

However, Mahesh Mangaonkar, 25 years old and adapting to tough life as a travelling professional, has taken a step further. He is in the process of planning for a career in the sport, with an eye on the future when competitive squash is over.

The Mumbai player, ranked 53rd in the world and based in the Netherlands (Houtrust Squash Club at The Hague), explained: “I am creating plenty of opportunities for myself after the squash career ends. I am a professional sparring player for many national federations around Europe. I am also in close connection with the Finland squash federation and looking forward to working with them.”

He was earlier operating out of Belgium, before the Dutch move.

Regular match practice

Mangaonkar is also an active player on the circuit. “I am currently part of eight clubs which give me enough funding to play tournaments around the world. I get match practice on a regular basis, train and prepare in the best way possible,” he said.

“The arrangement is like the Indian Premier League. I play for clubs in the Dutch league, English league, Czech league, Swedish league, Finnish league, Italian league, German league, French league,” he added.

Read | Joshna: Exposure to PSA circuit necessary for Indian squash players

The two-time national men’s champion is paid a match fee for European exertions. “I get to play matches every two weeks in one of these leagues and get paid EUR 600 per match, plus other expenses (travel, accommodation, food) taken care of.”

Mangaonkar is currently taking a breather between tournaments after winning the men’s crown at the 76th Senior National Squash in Pune last weekend. He will head to Doha for the Qatar Classic next month; that will be followed by the French Open, and then the Malaysian Open in September.

Eye on the rankings

Rising in rankings is high in priority for him. “I am currently 53 so not very far from making into the first 50. It will help me to compete in the Platinum competitions on a regular basis, besides the opportunity to create upsets against higher-ranked players. My goal is to beat the top guys.” His career-best ranking was 44 in 2015.

He asserted that apart from extensive travelling, fitness training is the radical change he has experienced. “My squash coach Sebastian Weenik (Dutch national coach) and fitness coach Pierre Macon (a CrossFit regional athlete from France), both motivate me a lot. I gained huge amount of mental toughness just by being around them.”

The Pune Nationals last weekend, staged by the MSRA, saw him beating Veer Chotrani in the semifinals, Abhishek Pradhan in the final. Talking about the domestic rivals, the champion said: “Abhishek is a known talent. I think he should be eyeing the top 100 (ranking) as his next milestone. Veer can be a medal prospect at the World Juniors. These players need more experience playing at the highest level, that will give them a some level of confidence and positivity. India needs more players on the PSA Tour and I hope they make the right decision.”