Less than six months after giving birth to twins, Dipika Pallikal made the mother of all comebacks on Saturday when she teamed up with brother-in-law Saurav Ghosal and long-time teammate Joshna Chinappa to win the mixed doubles and women's doubles title at World Doubles Championships in Glasgow.
Dipika, playing her first competitive event since October 2018, first clinched the mixed doubles title with Ghosal with a 11-6, 11-8 win over England's Adrian Waller and Alison Waters.
An hour-and-a half-later, Dipika and Joshna triumphed in the women's doubles final after a hard fought 11-9, 4-11, 11-8 win over England's Sarah Jane Perry and Waters.
In the year of Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, the tournament was a perfect preparation for the seasoned trio of Dipika, Joshna and Ghosal who continue to bring laurels to the country even after more than 15 years of competing at the highest level.
They are hoping their performance in the World Doubles gets noticed and they are back in the government's Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). They were included in the scheme four years ago ahead of CWG and Asian Games but have not been added yet.
"Just happy to be back on court. I trained really hard (for the comeback). I was quite edgy at the start of the tournament but got better as I played more matches.
"It is a good preparation for us for CWG which is the main target. The competition is more or less the same (here and CWG) and we know more about our opponents and we know where we need to improve," the 30-year-old Dipika told PTI.
After giving birth to twins in October, Dipika had begun training in December at the ISA in Chennai with Joshna and Ghosal.
"It is also a relief to be honest that I can still perform. Training is one thing but to be able to do that in a match is another. Never thought we would get this result in my first event in more than three years but so glad that we were able to tick all the boxes.
"There were people who felt I won't be able to do this (after motherhood) but I was never in doubt. The bigger goal remains CWG and Asian Games, so looking forward to that," said Dipika.
Dipika and Joshna made history in 2014 when they won the women's doubles gold at the CWG. Compared to Asian Games, the competition in CWG is much tougher with all top nations competing, barring Egypt.
Save the Egyptians, players from all top squash playing countries took part here too.
Joshna played a brilliant final alongside Dipika and the duo hung in there after losing the second game.
"The job gets easier when you have a strong partner like Dipika. We have got confidence from this result but we need to work harder," said Joshna after the final.
Dipika and Joshna had won a bronze in World Doubles back in 2017.
India's highest ranked player Ghosal said it was a crucial preparatory event.
"We have achieved what we wanted to from this event. It is a special win but we are not losing focus on the bigger goals. It was important to test us here, Dipika was coming back after a long time and she played really well."
When asked about not being in the TOPS, he said: "I don't know why we're not included this time but I hope we are soon. Irrespective of that, it doesn't change my goals and plans but with TOPS, things do get easier and faster."
The players also get stipend with TOPS and approvals for training and competition come much faster.