2011 champion Dipika Palikal’s return will be the biggest talking point as the most important event on the Indian domestic squash calendar – the 73rd Senior National Squash Championships – gets under way at the Otters Club in Bandra, Mumbai on July 12.
The World No. 19 had stayed away from the premier tournament for the last four editions demanding equal prize money for the women players and refused to participate until her plea was heard. In a revolutionary change, the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) decided to end the disparity in pay this year and announced that the winners in both the categories will receive Rs 1.25 lakh each.
All eyes on a probable Chinappa vs Pallikal final
The second-seeded Dipika’s comeback thus makes the Nationals an even more competitive event. The women’s field will be headed by her and the 14-time champion Joshna Chinappa, who broke into the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time in her career this July.
Top seed Chinappa, who is chasing Indian legend Bhuvneshwari Kumari’s record of 16 National titles, herself acknowledged that Pallikal’s inclusion will make it tougher for her to win the title.
“I had a lot of competition while playing the senior nationals early on in my career as a junior, and winning it then was hard. Now, it will be even harder playing with Dipika,” the 29-year-old said.
Besides the two Tamil Nadu stalwarts, the other players to watch out for are World No. 81 Sachika Ingale, Akanksha Salunkhe who played at the South Asian Games and National U-19 runner-up Adya Advani.
Ghosal targets 11th title
On the men’s side, all eyes will be on the top-seeded Saurav Ghosal as he sets his sights on an 11th title. A foot injury had kept him out of action since April and the World No. 17 will be gunning to make an impressive return.
The 29-year-old squash ace’s path will not be easy though as a slew of talented players will be vying for the title along with him. Among them are the former winner Harinderpal Singh Sandhu as well as seasoned professionals like Mahesh Mangaonkar and Vikram Malhotra.
Rising stars Kush Kumar and Velavan Senthilkumar, meanwhile, will be spearheading the young brigade and try to give the established stars a run for their money.
While the qualifying rounds start on Tuesday, the main draw will begin on Thursday and will continue till Sunday.