What's the story?
India's ace squash players Joshna Chinappa and Saurav Ghosal are the favourites at the Senior National Squash Championships. Chinappa is the top seed in the Women's Singles category and will be eyeing her 18th title while the Men's Singles top seed Ghosal will be aiming to clinch his 13th title.
The qualification matches at the Senior Championships taking place at the Indian Squash Academy (ISA) courts in Chennai have already concluded. It is now time for the main draw starting on 12th February.
Both Joshna and Saurav are highly successful at the National Championships and it will be interesting to see if they get any stiff competition this time around.
The critically-acclaimed squash players have represented India in multiple international events. Chennai-born Chinappa has a Women's Doubles Gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games along with Dipika Pallikal. She also boasts of a Silver medal at the 2014 and 2018 Asiad's.
33-year-old Ghosal won a Mixed Team event Silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. His most significant achievement, however, is winning the elusive Gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games in the Men's Doubles along with Harinder Pal Sandhu.
Regardless, both these players still love playing at the National Championships.
The heart of the matter
Over the past two decades, both Joshna and Saurav have been dominant at the prestigious National Squash Championships. World Number 12 Chinappa has won 17 titles while World Number 13 Ghosal has 12 titles to his name.
A visibly excited Joshna told TOI ahead of the tournament:
"Nationals will always hold a special place for me. It is the most prestigious national tournament and I think the top players should make time to come and support it. I have always said that no matter where I am I will try my level best to come and participate in this tournament every year."
Last year also Chinappa clinched the coveted National title. In the process, she broke Bhuvneshwari Kumari's 27-year-old record of having the most titles.
While the competition is a different level during International tournaments right from Round 1, Joshna also revealed that she does not take the National Tournament lightly. She further added:
"It is tough competition and there are players who can play in the PSA tour now. It doesn't matter if I have won 17 or none, the hunger to win will still be the same."
Chinappa will also be excited to play at her home in Chennai where the squash Nationals are making a return after a gap of nine years.
The 33-year-old Chinappa is set to face stiff competition from 2nd seed Sunayna Kuruvilla and Tanvi Khanna.
However, Saurav Ghosal will be the clear favourite to go on and claim his 13th National title. The Kolkata-born players journey will be relatively easy as Mahesh Mangaokar, who is the defending champion, is not taking part this year. Ramit Tandon, who was the 2nd seed, has also pulled out of the tournament due to an injury.
Regardless, Ghosal is 33 years old now and will face certainly get a good fight from the other youngsters, who will also have the opportunity to watch and learn from the veteran.
The Senior National Squash Championships will also act as the selection trials for the Asian Team Championships that are slated to begin on March 25 in Kuala Lumpur.