2012: 'Old war horses' rule the roost in squash
Dipika Pallikal broke into the world top 10, Saurav Ghosal celebrated the biggest PSA World Tour title win of his career and Joshna Chinappa claimed her maiden WISPA title at home as 'old warhorses' continued to be the flag-bearers of Indian squash internationally in 2012.
Pallikal, whose phenomenal on-court success helped her become the first Indian to break into the top 10 of the WISPA rankings, reached the final of the Tournament of Champions in New York, finished in the top eight in the World Open, entered the semifinals of the Australian Open (a Gold event) and to top it all, received the prestigious Arjuna award to cap off a remarkable year for her.
The Chennai-girl further proved her credentials when she led India to a fifth-place finish in the WSF Women's World Team Squash Championship at Nimes, France in November -- the country's best performance in the competition.
Pallikal, whose next assignment is the World Open in Cayman Island later this month, has credited her Australian coach Sarah Fitz-Gerald for her transformation in the last two years and has now set her sights on joining the elite club of the world's top five by next year.
Image: Dipika Pallikal
'I can break into the top five'
"My next target is top five. I broke into the top 10 club this month and, hopefully by next year, I can break into the top five. That's my immediate target," Pallikal said.
"Whatever I am today is because of Sarah. She has trained me really hard for the future challenges. Having the five-time world champion (Sarah) there really helped me a lot as she brings a lot of experience with her," she added.
For Pallikal, 2011 proved to be the turning point of her career which saw her winning three WISPA titles -– Orange County Open in California, Dread Sports Series tournament in Washington and Crocodile Challenge Cup in Hong Kong.
'Ghosal achieved his biggest win'
On the other hand, Kolkata-boy Ghosal achieved the biggest win of his career at the METRO squash Windy City Open when he defeated Pakistan's Yasir Butt in the final of the PSA International 25 event in Chicago early this year.
The success marked the fifth Tour title win of Ghosal's career.
Ghosal also made it to the quarterfinals of the CIMB Nicol David KL Open Squash Championships in March where he lost to Omar Mosaad of Egypt while the 26-year-old triumphed in the Maharashtra State Open Senior Squash Championship in Mumbai last month.
Ghosal has been the country's No.1 squash player for the past half a decade and the Leeds-based Indian is aiming to break into the top-20 of the world ranking by the end of this year.
Joshna clinched her maiden WISPA title
Joshna Chinappa also made headlines when she clinched her maiden WISPA title at home, and sixth overall, defeating third seed Sarah Jane Perry 3-1 in the final of the Chennai Open International championship in May.
The Chennai-girl had undergone a knee surgery seven months ago and had taken time off from the world tour to recuperate which saw a major slump in her ranking.
But she is back with a bang thanks to her win in Chennai and the semifinal appearances in Black Knight Open in Australia and Macau Open in China which saw the former India No.1 player claw her way into the top 40s of the world rankings.
In October, she clinched the IJM Land Penang Open while last month, she won the Maharashtra State Open Senior Championship defeating Urwashi Joshi.
The year also saw Indian women's squash team comprising Pallikal, Chinappa, Anaka Alankamony and Aparjitha Balamurukan -- winning its maiden Asian title by defeating top seed Hong Kong 2-0 in the final in Kuwait.
India's best performance in the women's team championship was a silver medal at the last championship held in 2010 in Chennai.
The top-seeded men's team of Saurav Ghosal, Siddharth Suchde and Harinder Pal Sandhu too made history by reaching the maiden Asian Team Championship final but went down 0-2 against Pakistan in the summit clash.
Other notable performer of the year passing by was Anaka Alankamony. The Asian junior gold-medallist claimed her second overall and the first title abroad in the women's professional squash tour when she won the Ipswich Open in Queensland in October.