Pallikal steals limelight in squash with three WISPA titles
New Delhi: Young woman squash sensation Dipika Pallikal stole the limelight while her men counterparts had a forgettable year which also saw India hosting a successful top tournament in PSA Masters.
Pallikal became the highest ranking Indian woman squash player ever after winning three major WISPA titles this year, making the year passed by truly hers.
The 20-year-old Chennai girl climbed to her career-best ranking of 24th in February, surpassing the earlier best world ranking by an Indian -- 27th by former national champion Misha Grewal in 1995.
Pallikal, who turned professional in 2006, began 2011 at 29th spot and claimed her third WISPA title of the year this month in the Crocodile Challenge Cup in Hong Kong and that took her to number 17 in world rankings.
The number one Indian woman racqueter defeated Hong Kong`s Chan 12-10, 8-11, 10-12, 11-8, 14-12 in a thrilling final at the Hong Kong Squash Centre to claim fifth WISPA title of her career.
Pallikal clinched her first WISPA title of the year in September by winning the Orange County Open in Irvine, California and notched up her second in the United States with another WISPA tour event victory.
She also became the first Indian to reach the quarterfinals of the World Squash Open two months ago while she also made it to the semifinals of Buler Challenge Cup in Hong Kong and in World Tour Des Pyramides Open in France.
Pallikal added new dimensions to her game this year -- consistency and patience -- both enhanced by her training stint in Egypt.
She believes that her stint with new coach, six-time World Open champion Australian Sarah Fitzgerald, is the reason behind why her game has improved so much.
India`s number two woman player Joshna Chinappa too made her presence felt by winning her fifth WISPA title at the Metrosquash Windy City Open in Chicago in February.
World number 34 Chinappa defeated Pallikal in five games 11-4, 6-11, 12-10, 2-11, 11-6 to win the USD 8,000 event.
Chinappa also made the finals of WISPA Indian Challenger in April but lost to top seed Donna Urquhart of Australia 1-3. Chinappa had outsmarted her younger rival Pallikal 3-2 to make the summit clash at the Indian Squash Academy.
She also featured in the semifinals of World Tour Des Pyramides Open in France and Mohawk Hampton Open in New York.
Chinappa was forced to miss the later half of the year -- since August -- due to an injury.
The men squash players, however, had a forgettable year with the likes of Sourav Ghosal and Siddharth Suchde failing to impress.
Ghosal, world number 29, managed to successfully defend his Nationals title this month after defeating compatriot Harinder Pal Sandhu 3-1 in the final but failed to win any single international crown.
He also managed to reach the semifinals of Irish Open and Kolkata Open in April.
World number 55 Suchde`s highlight of the year was his semifinal appearances in Asian Championship in April and Nationals this month.
India hosted the third successful edition of the final PSA World Series event of the year -- Punj Lloyd PSA Masters that concluded here this week.
It was double delight for James Willstrop as the Englishman secured the world number one spot for the first time in his career after making a hat-trick of World Series titles by winning the Punj Lloyd crown.
Willstrop will be officially crowned world number one in January PSA charts. Willstrop, who won an unprecedented 15 matches and three major titles in a row -- after victories in Hong Kong and Kuwait, will take over from fellow Yorkshireman Nick Matthew.
While Suchde lost in the opening round, Ghosal exited in the pre-quarterfinals of the USD 1,65,000 Punj Lloyd event.