It was the day before her departure to London to take part in the prestigious British Open, an event where the virtual cream of international squash talent converge. Joshna Chinappa, as the highest ranked Indian (she is placed at 14) has a place in the main draw. In a relaxed mood with a just a mild workout planned in the MCC courts, Joshna sights are already set for a good show in London. “I do not stress out from a week before any major event,” she was to say as she got set for a big event after an unusually long gap.
The South Asian Games, where she had emerged an unbeaten player, in February was the last competition she was in. “I had wanted to be there in the Windy City Open in Chicago thereafter but time was too short after SAG, so I skipped,” she said while explaining her long absence from competition.
But that is of no concern for this professional who has her own routine, makes own arrangements and plans and has nobody to depend on. “Yes, when I was very young, my mother did travel with me for a tournament or two but I am pretty much on my own,” she would say of her life as a professional. On tours, Joshna does occasionally get tour players as friends to share rooms and also to double up as a 'coach' to read her game in matches and advice.
She too reciprocates but everything depended on the draw and timing of matches for one to be of mutual help. So dependence is not a word in a professional's diary and Joshna is no exception.
Where does the motivation come from then? Joshna believes when one is so involved in the sport, as she is, enjoyment takes care of everything. Besides, in her case, she had an incident, a grave moment when she injured her knee and that required surgery for remedy. Bed-ridden for a while, this Chennai girl somehow feared the worst of not being able to walk again let alone play at one stage.
“That 2011 August incident haunted me until I got back to the courts, thanks to my trainer and then former champion Ritwik Bhattacharya's encouragements. I could play again and so my motivation is to think of that incident and tell myself how much I had come forward from there. I need to keep improving,” she trails off. Joshna believes some of her best squash had come post this happening and so she is definite there is more to come from her.
“Squash players generally peak around late 20s and play their best in the early 30s. I am into that now and I should think of the positives I can gain in the next few years,” the 14-time national champion said with a touch of confidence. Rankings are not something that inspires her as much as a good performance against some of the best in the business. Experience has taught her to be stable and take defeat and win in the same measure as it comes and the constant interaction with psychologists has helped her to be mentally strong, something so vitally important on a match court.
For someone who had virtually begun visits to the squash courts right from the moment, she learnt to walk, thanks to her father Anjan Chinappa's love for squash and his squash pastime in the MCC she has come a long way. She remembers as a 5-year old she had defaced a white-wall at home into black by constantly hitting a squash ball on it with a racket. “Yes, I did get a big scolding from my mom,” she laughed but it was that early in life that this champion-to-be had begun her courting with a sport that was to be her passion.
Though several years have passed and Joshna has in the period annexed many recognitions, the young lady is still a down to earth lovable character with young players around. “I love to mingle with the children, encourage them if I can in the sport. Some seniors also do come to me to talk and learn about the challenges in the sport. It is my interest to develop talent around and boost the sport's progress,” she said.
At her age girls generally are settled with a family of their own and Joshna too is not averse to such ideas but 'marriage' is not my immediate goal as much as achieving something more in squash. “When things fall in place other things in life too with follow, “ is her philosophy.
Yes it is her grand-dad who keeps reminding her of marriage but she has had her way. “Lets see,” is her approach. For the moment, however, her thoughts are on her future in the sport. “I still have a few tasks to complete and then post my playing career, I am looking forward to coaching young talent in whatever way I can. I am keen to be associated with squash,” Joshna said, already clear of what lies ahead. Before that the champion player is equally keen to give that extra glitter to her already illustrious career.