Interview with Adya Advani, ISA Junior Open 2015 winner: "Initially I used to get all the broken and used racquets to play with"
Fresh off her win in the girls under-19 category at the ISA Junior Open 2015, Delhi girl Adya Advani is back in Chennai at the Indian Squash Academy to prepare for key upcoming tournaments ahead.
Adya is the number two ranked junior in India in the girls U-19 group and is part of a promising young contingent of squash champions who will represent India at the Asian and World Juniors in July. I caught up with Adya for a brief chat on the sidelines of her preparation.
How and when did you start playing squash Adya?
I started off when I was about 9 years old. My dad used to play on Sundays to the club near our house. So, I used to go with him along with my brother. Eventually, my brother started training there. I used to be really idle at the time and thus my dad got me playing as well. For the first two years, I used to get all the broken racquets and all the used racquets to play with, the ones that my dad had used earlier.
Who was your first coach?
My dad. In Delhi there are no academies as such, there are just small, private coaching schools around the city. My first coach was Ali Sir, who used to train at the same club where we used to go.
Once you started, was it out of interest that you continued playing?
Definitely, it was my love for the sport. In the beginning, yes, I used to play for fun, it didn’t really matter to me whether I won or lost. But then, after a point in time, it started to matter and I would get upset whenever I lost or whenever I didn’t play well. That’s when I realized that I want to do well and I want to go somewhere with this.
And that’s when you went fully professional…
Yes, I began playing the national events. My first Nationals was in Kolkata about a year after I started playing.
So, you’re currently ranked two in the Under-19 girls category and you beat the number one player, Harshit Kaur Jawandha in the final at the ISA Junior Open. Was that the first time you had beaten her?
It was the first time in a long time. We used to play each other almost every single time since we were in the same category. I used to beat her initially and then she started beating me regularly and I could never defeat her. ISA was the first time since she started that run.
When did you start going international?
I started playing in Malaysia in 2006-07. Then in 2010 I played my first Asian Junior individual event and since then I’ve started playing regularly abroad. In 2013, I played in my first World Juniors.
Which are the wins that have been most memorable so far for you?
I think my bronze medal finish at the Asian Juniors in 2011 and apart from that my national titles. Especially the ones that I won last year and the year before that.
What would you say is one aspect of your game that is a real strength for you?
My ability to think, basically my shot selection. But sometimes it goes a little haywire, like when my mind is not on court or I’m not focused. Otherwise, it’s something that’s pretty steady and for me is an asset.
And what according to you is something that needs work?
My fitness definitely. My speed, agility, mobility. Stamina’s not that bad. I’ve been working with Dhruv for the last two years and that’s helped me a lot. And now I’ve come here, I’ve been here for two weeks now. It’s been really helpful and I think when I leave from here there is a noticeable difference from the condition I was in when I came here.
How’s the two-week camp here at the ISA been so far?
Honestly, this program is new to me. I’ve come two to three times before for training, but that was when I was in the under-15 category. Now, since I’m in the under-19 category, it is just so much more intense. Everyone’s pushing me here and they really are pushing me to the limits so that I can get the best out of myself. They definitely have a lot to offer and at the end of the day it’s about how much I’m willing to push myself to get the best from the program.
And I’ve pushed myself to get the best out of what they have to offer, from Cyrus Sir and Maniam Sir.
Now you are just into your 12th at Sriram School in Delhi? How do you manage the two?
It’s tough. Very tough, actually. Even right now, this is supposed to be my summer holidays and during this time we have a lot of projects. And I study in the ICSE syllabus and not CBSE. And it’s difficult because I’m here and not at home which means I don’t have everything that I require. It’s tough, but I have to manage both. I try to finish as much as I can before travelling somewhere. I usually travel with my books, I try to take time out and study and revise as much as I can.
Are there any goals that you’ve set for the year?
For the Asian Juniors, I want to do really well, build on my past showing. And I want to really perform at the World Juniors as I know that the level there is really high. So I want to perform to the best of my abilities there and I want to be satisfied with the performance that I put in there. And in the team event, which is Harshit, Akanksha, Nikita and myself, we want to do better than last time where we finished seventh. And at the Asians, I want to reach the semis as a minimum, obviously I want to do better than that, but I want to reach the semis at least.
Has there ever been a time when you have felt differently about your commitment to squash? Have you ever wondered about the life of a non-athlete?
Basically what happens to me is that at times I look at my friends and I feel that they are all going out and having fun and that I don’t get to do that because I have to go for training and I have to rest and eat as per my schedule. It’s so monotonous and it doesn’t change. I have a fixed diet and I can’t eat this, this, this….
A lot of times I’ve thought about why I’m doing this, I’m not enjoying life, I’m missing out on so much. But then, something also happens to me when I don’t play for more than, say, two days. I feel like I’m missing out on something, that my day is incomplete. But I’m doing this not because I can’t live without it, I’m doing this because I like this sport, I love this sport.
Who’s generally part of your touring party and what sort of influence does it have on you?
Usually my dad travels with me. He doesn’t really give instructions. He wants me to learn and understand on my own. He won’t say that I played badly, even if I did, rather he would come to me and ask me to think about what went wrong.
Have you ever lost your cool during your match, broken a racquet in frustration?
I used to when I was younger, but not anymore. As for breaking racquets, it’s never happened during a match, but I’ve done it in training when I was younger.
What’s your coping mechanism on-court and off-court?
I talk to myself. I talk to myself a lot. I think that’s how I’ve learnt to keep my emotions in check while on court and also think clearly.
(Adya will be representing India at the World Junior championships in July and Asian Junior championships in August)