Anahat Singh has the trappings of a champion who is set to go a long way in Indian squash. Past 11 years in age, she has already started making waves in the U-13 and U-15 categories. But her latest achievement is what propelled her to earn national focus. Anahat was by far been the best performer among the nine Indians who had gone to Birmingham to take part in the prestigious British Junior Open. An U-11 title winner last year, this Delhi girl stormed into the final in the higher category (U-13) after some scintillating displays enroute and that is saying something about her guts and grit considering the obstacles she cleared included a redoubtable Egyptian talent by the name of Janna Galal. It was a semi-final that perhaps was one showpiece event of this year's edition for the sheer closeness with which fortunes swung.
The Egyptian girl, the second seed did not seem to consider the lower-seeded Indian much of a hurdle. The contest too started off that way with Janna sailing past her rival in the first game with ease. The transformation came there, or rather, the true character of the national champion Anahat came to the fore. “She likes to fight and hates to lose,” described her mother Tani Vadhera Singh of her champion daughter. True to her words, Anahat broke lose, stunned her rival by grabbing the next two games, showing a rare touch in stroke-play. The Egyptian won the fourth game to set up an exciting decider which was tantalisingly close after Janna had taken a 7-1 lead initially.
Anahat not only caught up with her rival but spurned four match ball offers. The Egyptian then was to waste three match balls. It was a wait for one wrong move or a brilliant stroke and it was Anahat who stole the moment to stun the higher seeded opponent.
“To Anahat this was virtually the final. She played with such resolve and purpose,” said Mrs Singh who had been by her daughter's side right through.
Stumble at the final hurdle
It was a different matter that the same fight did not materialise in the title-round against another Egyptian Amina Orfi. Not only was she the top seed but a touch older and had already undergone so much advanced coaching that in Egypt she had been touted as the next big name from the country in due course. “Amina was so good and the difference was there for all to see,” said Anahat's mother.
But she had no regrets for Anahat had proved her mettle and besides she still had time to have a tilt at the title next year. By then the young girl would have added some more honours to the pile of achievements she already has to her name. For all this Anahat would never have been a squash player! Her interest or foray into sports was through badminton before she followed her elder sister Amira to the squash courts.The spark took place there! From age 8 to now, this Delhi has girl been just impressive.
Go with the flow
“Not to put her into any strict regimen,” has been Anahat's parents desire and indeed enjoying what she does on the courts takes precedence.
“So we have ensured she does not spend over two hours on a daily basis in training,” Mrs Singh said thus ensuring the child was never over burdened.
The SRFI national circuit, with increased number of tournaments, has been a great help in polishing up her competitive spirit. Then again the high performance camps, courtesy the HCL Podium Programme, she felt was a revelation, more so after watching the Egyptian talents who all looked such finished products from such an advanced coaching system.
The brief coaching stint of English coach Chris Ryder, she said, was timely. The coach had been the motivator of good talents the world over, particularly in England, and knew exactly the areas that any talent needed to be toned up. Anahat was that way was a beneficiary of Federation's new offering.
“I am looking forward to more such camps before the Asian junior Championship in June. For, that would mean a lot to the Indian players in the context of making a mark in the big event", Mrs Singh said, while thanking the Union Sports Ministry and the SAI for all the support for her daughter's participation in the BJO.
Support is what makes things comfortable for any budding talent and indeed as her mother said, “the British School, where Anahat studies in the 6th standard, too provides her all the backing, so much so that missed classes are not an issue.The teachers are there to help,” she said. Yet, for all this the young girl is humility personified from what her mother describes. “She hardly talks of her squash achievements in school. Nor does she like to hear that discussed.” Grace personified in one who looks certain to be a future star of Indian squash.