Giant-killer Abhishek takes on home favourite Velavan in the men’s final

August 26, 2021



Home favourite Velavan Senthilkumar will take on giant-killer Abhishek Pradhan of Mumbai in the final of the HCL-SRFI Indian tour-Chennai leg 3, a PSA Challenger Tour-10 event, at the Indian Squash Academy courts on Thursday. Top seeds Sunayna Kuruvilla of Chennai and Tanvi Khanna of Delhi will battle for the title in the women’s final.

On Wednesday, Velavan, seeded fifth, overcame fourth seed Abhishek Agarwal of Mumbai 11-8, 14-12, 11-5 in the first semifinals which lasted 37 minutes.

In the second semifinal, sixth-seeded Abhishek outlasted seventh seed Rahul Baitha 11-7, 11-3, 11-9 in 25 minutes. Abhishek is on a high particularly after his morale boosting quarterfinal win over top seed Abhay Singh in the quarterfinals on Tuesday evening, and continued with his solid play.

“I came here after three weeks of preparation with Tanvi (Khanna), Ranvijay Singh (player) and their coach Druv Dhawan who welcomed me to play and use facilities in Delhi’s Siri Fort Stadium. So I’m glad with my performance,’’ Abhishek told after his match against Rahul whom he calls as an upcoming star.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, courts in Mumbai are yet to be reopened. The finalist in the national championships for the past two years, Abhishek has played Velavan three years ago in Mumbai which he lost. “So the final will be a revenge match for me. I’m expecting a tough match from Vela. I have my plans too and hope it works,” said the 28-year-old Mumbaikar.

For the southpaw Senthilkumar, the 2016 Asian Junior Squash champion and the 2017 British Junior Open, this is his second PSA final. In 2018, the Salem boy tasted his first ever PSA triumph at the Madison Open in Wisconsin. However, Velavan, 23, lost in the quarterfinals of the PSA event held in Chennai during April this year at the same venue.

Both Sunanya and Tanvi outplayed their semifinal rivals Akshaya Sri and Aparajitha Balamurukan in straight games.

Unseeded Akshaya Sri, an ISA trainee, was on a dream run as she defeated higher ranked players in the earlier rounds and her confidence was high. But in the semifinals, the 16-year-old Akshaya met her match in Sunayna, 23, who dismissed the teen 11-5, 11-9, 11-1 in 17 minutes.

No. 2 Tanvi faced little trouble in her encounter against city girl and fourth-seeded Aparajitha 11-4, 11-5, 11-6 which took 18 minutes.

Final (from 11:00): 1-Sunayna Kuruvilla vs 2-Tanvi Khanna (women); 5-Velavan Senthilkumar vs 6-Abhishek Pradhan (men).

Semifinal scores MEN: 6-Abhishek Pradhan bt 7-Rahul Baitha 11-7, 11-3, 11-9; 5-Velavan Senthilkumar bt 4- Abhishek Agarwal: 11-8, 14-12, 11-5; WOMEN: 2-Tanvi Khanna bt 4-Aparajitha Balamurukan 11-4, 11-5, 11-6; 1-Sunayna Kuruvilla bt Akshaya Sri 11-5, 11-9, 11-1