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'Being No 1 is very good; living up to it is tougher'

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August 09, 2004 11:47 IST

'Being No. 1 is very good; living up to it is tougher'

Sourav Ghosal has done it again.

The 17 year old became the first Indian to be ranked the No 1 junior squash player in the world last month.

Two years ago he came to Chennai with his grandparents to pursue a dream of playing professional squash and enrolled at the ICL Squash Academy.

Today, he has realised part of that dream by achieving the No 1 ranking.

Ghosal's first international title was in the under-17 age group. It came at the German Open in May 2002. He went on to win the under-17 Dutch Open in Amsterdam two months later.

In 2003, he claimed the title in the under-19 category at the German Open. But his major triumph was winning the prestigious British Open under‑19 title in 2004.

Ghosal, who was seeded fifth at the British Open, considered the most prestigious tournament after the World Junior Championships, defeated the fancied Egyptians and Pakistanis to emerge triumphant.

An Indian won the under-19 title for the first time in the 24-year-old championships' history.

A first year BA Economics student at the Loyola College in Chennai, Ghosal, who turned pro this year, faces his biggest test at the World junior championships in Islamabad later this month, where he has been given top billing.

Contributing Special Correspondent Shobha Warrier spoke with India's latest sporting sensation.

When I interviewed you after you won the Under-19 British Open you said your ambition is to win the World junior championship. Even before winning the World juniors you have become the World junior No 1. Has this come as a bonus to you?

Yes, it is a bonus. Winning the world juniors, which will take place in Islamabad, is not going to be easy. It is going to be close. I will have to perform really well in Pakistan to win the title.

When did you get the news about becoming World junior No 1?

The Chennai-ICL Open, a super-Satellite PSA event, was going on then. I think it was on the 22nd morning [July 22] that my coach called me and passed on the news. 

I was quite happy. But I was expecting it, in the sense that we know the points we win after each tournament.

I knew I would be up there. So the news did not come as a big surprise to me.

Of course, being in the number one position is very good, but living up to it is tougher!

How did you receive the news?

Sourav GhosalOf course, I was happy. I broke the news to my grandparents first [Sourav lives with them in Chennai]. Then I called my father in Kolkata. After that I looked at the draw at the Chennai-ICL Open; I had a quarter-final match scheduled for that day. Remember the tournament was going on?

When I reached there, all those who know me expressed happiness. Then my coach told me that my immediate aim should be to win the quarters.

Didn't you celebrate?

No. My coach and I know it is easier to reach there but it is very difficult to stay there. Our aim is to win the World junior championship. Only after I win the World juniors, hopefully, the celebrations will start.

You played very well throughout the Super Satellite PSA squash event in Chennai but in the final you lost to the Egyptian Mohammed Essam Hafiz. Of course, he was quite senior to you at 28, and was seeded second while you were fourth. Were you disappointed?

I was disappointed because it was my second PSA final and I lost both. I am yet to win a PSA tournament. That made me feel disappointed. I am happy because I was beaten by a better player that day. I can't even complain about playing too badly; I was a bit tired after beating the top seed, Frenchman Jean-Michel Arcucci, in the semis. But I must say I got a lot of exposure, and I could learn a lot playing against these very good players.

Hafiz is here in Chennai for the next two weeks and playing with me. So, every day I am learning a lot from him. He has a contract with the Academy to stay back and play with us.

What are you learning specifically by playing with him?

A lot of technical aspects, shots, etc. I would like to keep it to myself at the moment.

After he won the tournament he said you played well, and he won because he was more experienced than you...

He is a very nice guy. And he is very good to work with.

Do you think becoming World No 1 junior will put a lot of pressure on you?

No, not at all. I consider these things as stepping stones for bigger goals.

I look at the World junior championship as one. The larger goal, of course, is becoming World No 1.

Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

Image: Imran Shaikh