Open mind, ‘fun’ sessions behind strong reunion

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  When Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal were en route Glasgow for the World Doubles Championships, they had a few thoughts in their minds. To take it point-by-point and match-by-match. While Joshna was quietly confident of medalling, the pair didn’t even think about the possibility of winning gold, the medal they won at the five-day event in a week ago. 

The reason was two-fold. One, Joshna and Dipika (who was coming off a long break) had just started sharing the glass cage for practice sessions after a gap of more than three-and-a-half years. Two, doubles teams had started standalone training camps within their own squads (unlike in other racquet sports like badminton and tennis, most squash tournaments don’t have standalone doubles events). While the world’s leading partners had dedicated doubles-only sessions, Dipika and Joshna were being reacquainted to one another in Chennai. That was further complicated as Joshna had a busy schedule. 

“I was also playing tournaments back-to-back so I wasn’t actually in Chennai that often,” Joshna says. “Anytime I had a few days off, I would do a couple of days of doubles with Dipika. We tried to get in whatever little practice we could and with that confidence, we went for the doubles (laughs),” she adds. There was another spanner in terms of sparring partners at Chennai. “It was different in Chennai because we didn’t have that many players to play with. In terms of training with different players, we managed with what we had.”   

What worked for the pair was their muscle memory remained intact. As soon as they got back inside the glass cage, they knew their movements, what spaces the other player would occupy. “Training (for the tournament) was nice, a lot of fun” the World No 13 says. “On court, it was like how it has always been when we played doubles in the past.” That was why the 35-year-old felt they had a chance of medalling. “Thought we had a fairly decent chance to win a medal but knew it was going to to be tough… honestly didn’t think we would win gold. That (winning hold) has been exciting for us.” 

The one obvious game plan they had going into the tournament was taking it match-by-match. Even if they hadn’t poured over video analysis (Joshna says this will form a part of their Commonwealth Games preparation), the world of squash is fairly small. Everyone plays everyone everywhere, there are no secrets about new techniques. “The plan was to go match-by-match,” she says. “We actually didn’t have the chance to do that (video analysis) but we had an idea of how everyone plays. We didn’t really think of the result or the end in sight. It was really day-by-day. We had a plan for each opponent and we take it as it came.” 

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