New Delhi: Joshna Chinappa overtook Dipika Pallikal to become India's highest-ranked player while off the court N Ramachandran's role as the boss of the world governing body was questioned in what turned out to be a memorable year for Indian and world squash.
Ramachandran faced a lot of heat, both as president of the World Squash Federation (WSF) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), coinciding with his brother N Srinivasan's ouster from the International Cricket Council.
The Professional Squash Association (PSA) went to the extent of calling Ramachandran an "embarrassment" to the sport for leading WSF to another failed Olympic bid. Back home in India, selected member federations wanted him removed as the IOA chief but he managed to weather the storm.
The start of the year also saw the merger of male professional body PSA and its women's counterpart WSA.
On the court, Joshna had the most fruitful time among country's three torch-bearers including Dipika and Saurav Ghosal.
The highlight of her season undoubtedly was getting the better of world number one Raneem El Welily in the opening round of Qatar Classic. A couple of USD 15,000 titles in Melbourne and Mumbai along with a semifinal finish at the USD 50,000 Carol Weymuller Open in New York eventually helped her reach a career-high rank of 13, a jump of nine places since
It is the first time in five years that the 29-year-old finished the season ahead of Pallikal, who held on to the 16th spot of December last year despite playing less events owing to a month's break she took for her wedding in August.
Joshna wants to capitalise on her form as she aims to do better in the upcoming season.
"It has been a good year but I don't want to stop here. I believe I can push myself. Obviously the aim is to get better, break into the top 10 and then top five. I don't want to think that I am at the peak of my game. I am 29 and as squash history points out, a lot of players peak post 30. So I am going to keep doing what I am doing, work hard and train hard for the upcoming season," Joshna told PTI.
For her longtime teammate Dipika, it was an unforgettable year off the court as she tied the knot with cricketer Dinesh Karthik. On the squash court, she did not have a great time by her standards.
"It was not a great year for me to be honest. I did not play as well as I could have. The positive is that I have not lost a lot of ground in the rankings and hopefully I can get back into the top-10 with consistent performances next year,"Dipika said.
India's leading male player Saurav Ghosal won his first title in three years at home in Kolkata, securing his sixth PSA trophy in the process.
The 29-year-old, who ended the year as world number 18 after beginning at 24, reached four finals with the high point being his runner-up effort in Colombia. He was expected to win the summit clash against local qualifier Alfredo Avila after surprising fifth-ranked Miguel Rodriguez in the last four.
His other two wins against a top-10 player came against Tarkek Momen.
"It was a decent year for me. I reached four finals and won one though I should have done more than that. Next season will be about climbing up the rankings ladder, getting more wins against top-10 players," said Ghosal, who injured his foot in Hong Kong earlier in the month.
He is undergoing recovery at home and therefore will be missing the Tournament of Champions to be held in New York from January 7.