Joshana Chinappa sits ramrod straight, radiating calm. The familiar pow of the squash ball is a staccato score behind her voice, as she talks about the NSCI Open, the tournament she’s currently playing in Mumbai. The first event of the second annual JSW Indian Squash Circuit kicked off on September 1st.
For Mumbai, it’s a rare chance to see one of their top players live, in action. For Chinappa, who travels the world almost eight months of the year on the PSA tour, it’s a chance to play in front of friendly faces.“It’s always fun in front of a home crowd,” Chinappa says.
While the player, currently ranked World No. 24, hails from Chennai, the time she spent in Mumbai while recovering from her 2011 injury has made it a second home. It’s also a time that shaped her profoundly. An injury, she says, forces a player to re-evaluate her career. Particularly in the case of a torn ACL, which laid up Chinappa for the better part of six months in 2012, you realize how quickly everything you’ve worked so hard for can be lost.
“Now that I have it back again, I’m not taking it for granted,” she says.
And that’s where the calm comes from. At age of 28, Chinappa has confronted the hard truths of life that most people don’t encounter until middle age – the end of one’s career, and in some ways, one’s identity (she decided at age 10 to pursue squash professionally). She has emerged from the mental ordeal a more focused, more determined player.
“You realize it’s a shark’s world,” she says. “It didn’t hit until my injury to know what I needed to do to get to that next level.”
Three years later, she’s a noticeably different player.
“She’s much grittier, harder to break down,” says Ritwik Bhattacharya, PSA Representative in Asia and organizer of the JSW Circuit. Chinappa trained with Bhattacharya for much of her recovery, and he’s seen first-hand her evolution. “She was on autopilot earlier, until the injury. After, it became really clear to her it was her last chance to make it as one of the best players in the world.”
An injury, explains the former India No. 1 and PSA player, forces a player to ask ‘If I stop playing squash tomorrow, will I have been the best player I can be?’
“You really push yourself. And she has,” Bhattacharya says. “I don’t think any other woman player in the world today is training as hard as she is.”
The glory is in the tournaments and the wins, Bhattacharya says. Only the player focuses on the grunt work, the training, the early mornings at the gym—but that’s what counts.
“Joshana’s been training eight hours a day since she recovered,” Bhattacharya says.
“And it’s all self-motivated. That’s hard.”
Equally hard is the mental game, which is often the make-or-break aspect at Chinappa’s level of squash. For the last few years, she’s been working with a sports psychologist in the UK, who she says helps her “put things into perspective”.
“I’m a lot more prepared, now, before each tournament,” she says. “I always have a plan.”
She’s also a lot more thankful. Those eight months when she’s constantly on the move between one tournament and the next? Chinappa enjoys them.
“This time in my life is not going to come back,” she says. “I appreciate sitting on a flight, going somewhere, doing something I love.”
The JSW Circuit appreciates her stopping by
“She’s a champion,” Bhattacharya says. “It’s great to have her here in year two. We’re hoping she wins this tournament and improves her rankings. Providing that kind of opportunity for Indian players is one of the main objectives of the Circuit.”
Joshana eventually won the final by beating Habiba Mohamed of Egypt 11-8 11-9 11-6 in 47 minutes.
The JSW Indian Squash Circuit continues throughout this month and into October, with the following tournaments: CCI International, a 35k Men’s tournament at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai 8-13 September; the Kolkata International, a 35k Men’s tournament at the Calcutta Racket Club in Kolkata 22-27 September; and the JSW Indian Squash Circuit IV at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai 18-22 October.
Follow the action at www.indiansquashcircuit.com, or on Facebook
(facebook.com/indiansquashcircuit) or Twitter (@INSquashCircuit).Published 09 Sep 2015, 16:53 IST