Velavan wants to level up after British U-19 title

Velavan Senthilkumar recently became the third Indian to win the u-19 British Junior Open title. The achievement, albeit significant, is a stepping stone for him to progress to the senior level.

VELAVAN SENTHILKUMAR

Velavan Senthilkumar was the third Indian to win the British Junior Open Squash title after Anil Nair in the 1970s, and Saurav Ghosal in 2004.   -  R. Ragu

A milestone, or simply put, a huge win, is a reference point to how a sportsman is, was, and can be. For Velavan Senthilkumar, the recent British Junior Open Squash title win in the u-19 boys category is one such. He sees his junior career culminating in the feat. As of now.

"To play a lot of senior events. Perform wherever I can, and get better," he said of his future plan, at the Indian Squash Academy here on Thursday.

There's the Asian team championships in February which he will try make the most of, for it will be the last major tournament of his junior career. From March, he'll enter the senior circuit.

So, what's the major change does a player sense when he transitions from one age group to the other?

"As one progresses, he endures longer in a match. For instance, in the u-19 circuit, players just play for hours together and don't give up, as opposed to the matches in the u-17 group that don't last that long."

Some facts on and around his latest win, will give it the depth of context. Velavan was the third Indian to win the title after Anil Nair in the 1970s, and Saurav Ghosal in 2004. It was the first all-Indian final in the 91-year history of the event - Velavan played his contemporary Abhay Singh, another 18-year-old, in the final. And, India swept all three medals of the competition - the 17-year-old Adhitya Raghavan won bronze.

Coach Cyrus Poncha, naturally, was elated. "It's a huge achievement for India. The quality of competition this time was top-notch. Like, Adhitya, in the quarterfinal, had to overcome an American who had beaten the World junior champion en route. And Velavan had to beat the World No. 2 in the semifinal," he said.

When sought to technically differentiate the three of them, he said, "Abhay has the best technique. He's a natural. Adhitya works very hard. What, say, Velavan has as natural talent, Adhitya achieves it by working hard. And, Velavan is the best mover on-court. He's known for his quickness and economy of movement."

Velavan concurs. "Abhay’s crafty. That's one thing about him I would like to have."