New Delhi: India's highest-ranked squash player Joshna Chinappa has rated the maiden Asian Championship title as the biggest achievement of her long singles career.
The Asian crown is a big shot in the arm for the 30-year- old ahead of the Commonwealth and Asian Games next year.
Joshna, who had won the historic Commonwealth Games doubles gold with Dipika Pallikal in Glasgow three years ago, edged her longtime teammate in another tense battle in Chennai yesterday.
"I am first a singles player so this surely is one of the highlights of my career. The Commonwealth doubles gold was huge for both of us and now to win the Asian crown at home is extremely special," Joshna told PTI today.
Joshna, who turned professional way back in 2003, has achieved multiple firsts in the past 12 months with yesterday's triumph in Chennai marking the end of a memorable season.
She broke into the top-10 of the world rankings in July last year and days before becoming the Asian champion, she reached the World Championship quarterfinals in Egypt, becoming the second Indian to do so after Pallikal.
"Though I have been playing better than ever the last two years, I feel I can bring out more out of my game. It is time I start beating the top-five players regularly, perform in big events," said Joshna, who is currently ranked 14th.
It was an unprecedented moment for Indian squash when Joshna and Pallikal stepped on the makeshift glass court at the Express Mall in Chennai.
They both may be teammates for long but when pitted against each other, it is usually a fiercely fought battle with an odd push and shove being a common occurrence.
Prior to the final, Pallikal had beaten Joshna three times in a row, including the latest senior nationals.
How different is it to play against a teammate and somebody who knows one's game in and out?
"It is tough to be honest. There are no secrets out there. We travel on the tour together and train at the academy in Chennai at least couple of times a week.
"But more than knowing each others' game, it is mentally tougher to play your compatriot, it is a lot more emotional as well. I am glad this time there was no pushing and shoving. It was all fair," she said on a lighter note.
Joshna and Pallikal have started seeing more of each other
in the last six months with the latter shifting training base completely to hometown Chennai.
"All three of us in fact (including leading men's player Saurav Ghosal) train and travel together."
All three speak highly of India's Egyptian coach Ashraf El Karagi, who took charge in March.
"It has been very helpful to have him around. He understands my game well, what I need to do at a particular juncture of the match and advises me accordingly. Plus, he is travelling with us on the tour and therefore is able to rectify our mistakes instantly," she said.
It is to be noted that it was an all-Indian women's final in the Asian Championship in the absence of Malaysian legend Nicol David, who has won the trophy a record nine times.