Saurav Ghosal’s life has turned one full circle ever since he moved out of his home town Kolkata and joined the ICL Squash Academy in Chennai.For someone who picked up a racquet at the young age of nine, success came soon. His first major title was the German Open (U-17) in May 2002 and he won the Dutch Open two months later. However, the crowning glory came in the form of the British Open (U-19) title in 2004 and he thereby became the first Indian to claim the title ever since its inception in 1980.
Last week, he added another chapter to his fledgling career by winning the National championship (in Chennai) – his third victory in four years. “Going into the final, I was under a little pressure, considering the fact that I was defending my title. But I relish such challenges. After all, there is no fun without pressure,” said Ghosal, who was in Bangalore on a private visit last week.
Coached by retired Major Maniam and Cyrus Poncha while in Chennai, he currently trains under Malcolm Willstrop in Leeds and he thanks his father Prakash, who heads the Kolkata Racquet Club for having initiated him into the game. Much later, the move from Kolkata to the ICL academy in Chennai with help from India Cements executive director N Ramachandran proved to be a boon.
Ghosal has numerous firsts to his credit, the first Indian to be ranked junior World No one, the first to bag the junior National championship three years in a row and in December 2006, he won the country the first medal in squash in the Doha Asian Games.
The 20-year-old rates his Asian Games bronze medal with high regard and has his reason too. “I am proud of the fact that I could win the country the first medal in squash. Moreover, the Doha bronze earned squash a slot in the Government’s priority list,” recalls Ghosal, who beat compatriot Ritwik Bhattacharya en route to the last four stage before losing to Malaysia’s Ong Ben Hee in the semifinal. And he thinks his rivalry with Ritwik bodes well for the game. “The first time I watched him win the junior championship in Kolkata, I was just a kid. When I went on to beat him in the final of the National championship three years ago, it was a dream come true for me. Our rivalry is good for the game. You need someone to keep yourself on the toes always. Siddarth (whom he beat in the National final last week) is also proving to be a tough competitor.”
Pointing out his premature exit from the World junior championship in 2004 as one of the major disappointments of his career, Ghosal believes the game needs to be promoted more as he thinks it’s a sure bet for an Olympic medal. “We lost out for 2012. But we should make it at least for the 2016 edition,” he said. Despite being known for his swift court movement, Ghosal believes there are certain grey areas in his game which need improvement and he believes the stint with Willstrop would be handy here. “After training under him, I have improved my angular returns and forehands. I am hitting the ball harder now,” said Ghosal, who is enjoying a much needed break before he heads back to Leeds where he is pursuing his graduation his Economics and Management.
And as the current World number 42 gears up for a gruelling season which begins with the CAS International tournament in August in Islamabad, he has his priorities right. “Three years ago, I had set a target for myself – to get into the top 10 by the time the 2010 Commonwealth Games comes. The way I have been playing recently, I think I have come a long way in realising my goal.