Interview with Dipika Pallikal: "Being glamorous is certainly not a priority but the way I perform, is"
India's top female squash star spoke on a variety of issues
Dipika Pallikal has been quite a rage on the squash circuit. Her on-court prowess has made her crack the world top 10 ranking and she’s aiming to climb the ranking further in 2013. Today, when one talks of women athletes in the country, they wouldn’t miss mentioning about this serene South Indian star.
Men go week in the knees each time she flashes her gorgeous smile. Beat this, some have even given up on corporate jobs and switched to journalism hoping that one day they would get to interview her. Dipika laughs at this when told that she has a die-heart fan following.
The Arjuna awardee is thankfully not all glam and zero performance. She has proved her mettle over the years and has constantly made headlines while playing on the world stage.
She is the first Indian to break into the World top 10s. With a glorious 2012 drawing curtains, the sensational 21-year-old talks to Sportskeeda about her surge in form and also about her glamour quotient playing a huge role in making her one of the most sought after sportspersons in the country.
At 21, how hard is it for you to give up a regular post-teenage life? You obviously have little time for movies, dates, coffee or anything fun…
Well, I have gotten so used to living out of a suitcase. I was only 14 when I started travelling for matches and training. I moved to England for a year and now I have shifted to Melbourne, Australia and train there. I obviously miss home, my parents and close friends. But you need to find that comfort zone with whatever you do and I have found mine in Melbourne. I have a home away from home in Australia and I stay with my coach Sarah Fitz-Gerald. I’ve been in Melbourne since 2010.
My family and friends surely miss me a lot. Sometimes I don’t even get enough time to talk to my parents and that does bother them but there’s little I can do anything about it, especially when you have to reach world top 10 ranking, it does take a bit of sacrifice.
There has been an obvious surge in your performance since 2010…
It has a lot to do with Sarah. She has been such an iconic player herself with five world titles and the Commonwealth gold. It’s just not my game that has improved since I have been training with her but mentally also, she has been able to make a huge difference. She’s helped me believe in myself. You know when you are in the world top 15, it’s much to do with your mental makeup than your game.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee presenting the Arjun Award to Dipika Pallikal this year.
What’s your schedule through the year like?
We start the season in January in New York. The season continues till May and then from May to July, we do summer training. I take about 2-3 weeks off in summer and come home to see my folks. In August, the season starts with Australian Open and tournaments go on till December.
So this hardly gives you any time for yourself or to come home?
Yeah, so I take transit flights from home you know. (Laughs)
Who takes care of your funding? Do you have sponsors?
Most of my funding comes from the National Sports Development Funds. Apart from that, I have been lucky have sponsors in Ultratech Cement and Herbal Life. They help me when required. Travelling so much and competing gets really expensive and to have a world class coach costs quite a bit, but I have been able to manage over these past few years.
“I am happy if my glamour has helped in getting squash the popularity it needs.”
It’s very important to first be comfortable. Being glamorous is certainly not a priority but the way I perform, is. I don’t really concentrate on how I look when I am on the court. But being glam does pay off because you can get more endorsements and even popularize the game. I am happy if my glamour has helped in getting squash the popularity it needs.
But you do enjoy photo shoots and have appeared on cover page of a few fashion magazines?
Actually when I was a kid, I loved putting on makeup and taking pictures. Even now I do enjoy shoots and engage in it for some endorsements but I can’t do 16 hours of shoot, you know. I would rather train for 16 hours than pose for pictures for that long. I get bored after 4-5 hours of posing.
You have been extremely popular in Chennai, any movie offers that have come your way?
A few years ago I was approached to act in a movie. I obviously refused. I can’t act to save my life; what will I do in the movies? My focus is purely on squash and to get my ranking up. I am far, far away from Tollywood, Kollywood or Bollywood.