Saurav in DNA:Among top 10 by 2010

He won the junior British Open (under-19) squash title at Sheffield in early 2004 — the first Indian to do so since the tournament’s inception in 1980. And within a few months was ranked the number one junior in the world. Life, thereafter, hasn’t been the same for Saurav Ghosal. It’s not easy because people expect a lot more now. And when you don’t perform they say a lot of things,” says Saurav, in the city to participate in the $10,000 PSA Otters Open. “I listen to everything but don’t always use it. But hopefully I will be able to fulfil all expectations,” he adds. If his results are anything to go by, Saurav is definitely on the right path. Moreover, he is undaunted by the burden of expectations.Simply put, Saurav, who turns 20 today, comes up with his best when the expectations are more. Not one to rest on already achieved success and pouring accolades, he is ready to take the next step forward. Even before discussions regarding his achievement as a junior — and that also included three straight national junior titles between 2002-04 — had subsided, Saurav was already making waves on the senior circuit, most notably winning the national title in 2004. But the best was yet to come. Last year he became the first Indian ever to qualify for the main draw of the British Open, even as his more illustrious compatriot Ritwik Bhattacharya fell by the wayside. Ritwik, however, has been an inspirational figure as far as Saurav is concerned“He is one of the best not just on the basis of his performance but also because of his guts and courage,” explains Saurav. “He did everything on his own and went where no Indian has gone before, thereby, raising the bar. Two years back he helped me out when I had nobody to help,” he adds. So is it difficult for him playing against Ritwik? “I was only 11 and his biggest cheerleader when Ritwik won his first national title. So when I’m playing him it is not the same, not that aggressive,” admits Saurav, adding, “I have a lot of respect for him, and maybe it affects my game subconsciously, especially in a tricky situation.”

Thanks to his decent run of results, Saurav is now ranked a career-high 59. Despite his success the Kolkata-born player has set himself very modest, though realistic, targets. “So far my win against Pakistan’s Shahid Zaman at the Asian Seniors in February has been my best result this year. I’m trying to get into the top-50 by the end of the year,” he says. But he has certain long-term aspirations as well. “I would like to be in the top-10 before the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi,” he says, adding, “I know it will be tough but at the same time it is realistic and possible. I would feel bad if I don’t attain it.”

Needless to say, he has started work to this end. “My speed and touch in the front court are my strengths but my technique and ball control need improvement,” he admits categorically. Another thing Saurav is categorical about is his approval for the 11-point system, which purists believe has killed the artistry in the game. It’s better because it makes the game much more attacking and thereby, more viewer-friendly,” he reasons, adding, “It is no more about physical endurance and you get more upsets as the games are much more closer. And close competition is what Saurav will face in the World Open qualifiers later this month and his subsequent stint in Europe thereafter. “I’ll go back to the league in England after the September nationals. But Cybex Pontefract, the league I play for in Manchester, is very tough and has top players like James Willstrop and Lee Beachill, so I don’t know how many tournaments I’ll get to play in,” is his candid admission. But there’s one thing that he knows for sure; he wants to win the title here. “Obviously I want to win it and I feel I’ve a chance,” he says. And win the title, if he does so, will be a perfect birthday gift for the near-perfect player. Happy Birthday Saurav

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About Cyrus Poncha
I was born and lived in Bombay before moving to Chennai 11 years ago to coach the Indian national squash team....what a journey its been!!

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