Tanvi, Velavan do an encore, grab back to back PSA Challenger Tour titles in 10 daysSeptember 8, 2021, Greater Noida
Nothing went right with Sunayna Kuruvilla as the top seed was toppled for the second successive final by Tanvi Khanna 7-11, 7-11, 9-11 in the women’s final of the HCL-SRFI Indian Tour – Noida leg, a PSA Challenger Tour event, at the Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida on Tuesday.
In the men’s final, poor Abhishek Pradhan, seeded No.4, did his best against Velavan Senthilkumar of Chennai, seeded No. 3 but the Mumbaikar’s efforts were to no avail losing 7-11, 6-11, 9-11 in 25 minutes.
For the second seeded Tanvi, mentored by Asian Games medallist Lalit Verma at Siri Fort Stadium in New Delhi, the second title was sweeter as she overcame muscle spasm after she was forced to take a medical break even though she was two sets up and leading 2-1 in the third. After a three minute break too, Sunayana who was playing fifth PSA final looked rudderless while conceding third too and the championship in 29 minutes.
Tanvi mixed her shots with volleys and drops while attacking well. In the first, both the rivals were 7-all but four straight unforced errors failed Sunayna as Tanvi went 1-0 up. In the second, Tanvi was in a punishing mood and jumped to a 4-9 lead as Sunayna struggled with her rhythm and strides. Tanvi grew in confidence by sending shots to both corners to win the second. Soon after the third set began, Tanvi suffered spasm and after the medical break if one expected Sunayna would seize the chance it did not happen but the rivals went level till 6-all when the walking wounded Delhi girl took chances and wrapped up the match to bag her second title in 10 days.
“Everything went according to my plans. I enjoyed my game thoroughly. I also took my chances four or five times and tried for winners too, I was lucky I was able to pull it off,” said Tanvi, 25, who will climb another 10 places from her current world ranking of 86 and is expected to surge past Sunayna who is ranked 77 now. Before Chennai triumph Tanvi was 98 and after adding Noida title points, she will be the second Indian behind Joshna Chinappa who is at 13th place in the world.
“I don’t know how I managed to stay in the game and convert the chances that came my way,” Tanvi said about her medical break. What next? “I’m looking to play some international events and work on my game with my coach Dhruv Dhawan,” said Tanvi who also thanked SRFI for organising back to back events for Indian players in the background of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Velvan set to break into top 100
Meanwhile in the men’s final, Velavan never allowed Abhishek to settle and won the first two at 11-7 and 11-6. In the third, the Mumbaikar, 28, surprised his famed rival by changing the pace of the game, engaging him for longer rallies and drops giving torrid time to the Chennai lad for the first time in the tournament. Abhishek caught up from 2-6 at 7-all but lost a call when both were tied 9-all. Velavan, who is playing in his fifth PSA final, regrouped to bag the next two pints and the title.
“He (Abhishek) was outstanding in the third. I lost my focus as he gave me a tough time But I’m glad that I triumphed,” Velavan, who will be returning to the US on Wednesday to complete his graduation in Columbia University. “I will complete my graduation in May 2022 and will turn a full-time pro after that. I’m yet to decide about a personal or a travelling coach and support team but I will be based in Barcelona with Global Squash Academy run by a couple Bet and Victor. Before the pandemic too I was with them,” Velavan added.
The Salem-born Velavan, ranked 111, is expected to break into the top 100 world ranking for the first time when the latest list is released soon. Sourav Ghosal (13th), Vikram Malhotra (48th), Mahesh Mangaonkar (57th), Aditya Jagtap (69th) are the other top Indians in the first 100 led by Ali Farag of Egypt.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the PSA Challenger tournaments were held with only domestic players, allowing only entry to those players currently based in India to compete and were held following Covid protocols.