As a child, Joshna Chinappa would often visit the club with her father and would run into any court which was free. She took to squash from the plethora of options available to her probably because of her genes. Chinappa senior used to be a former state level player himself and coached his daughter for a long time.
“I chose squash as I was comfortable and there was a sense of familiarity to it,” says Joshna. It wasn’t all easy going at all once she decided to pick up the squash racquet for good. She considers herself lucky that she could access the squash courts due to her dad’s club membership. There were also a few issues with the federation in the beginning and she wasn’t immune to one of the biggest problems facing a sportsperson – money.
Travelling to tournaments was difficult due to the financial constraints it imposed on her family. As a result, she would participate only in three to four tournaments a year. She became good enough to participate in tournaments abroad and would often travel all alone as her parents could afford only so much. The fact that she became the first Indian to win the prestigious British Junior Open back in 2005 despite the circumstances surrounding it speaks volumes of her character.
“Parents’ backing is very important,” says Joshna, stressing on the need for an important support system. Today, she is the top-ranked Indian and achieved her best world ranking of 10 in July 2016. Having trained in Amsterdam, Egypt and USA with the likes of former world number one David Palmer, she is more confident of her abilities now. She is thankful to all the people in her life who have supported her journey, emotionally and financially.
Battling with Dipika and injury
She downplays her so-called rivalry with fellow professional Dipika Pallikal by terming it as a ‘hype’ created by the media. “They just want to see two girls fight and not necessarily on the court! We care little about what is being written. The truth is we are teammates and often roommates too. We have to back each other up,” reasons Joshna, “It’s just her and I who are strong enough for the Indian team as of now. We both want to do well, win medals for the country. We have been playing each other for a long time to respect each other. Of course, on court you want to win, just as you want to against any other player on the PSA World Tour.”
There was a time though, when she couldn’t even walk without a limp after suffering an agonising ACL injury and remembers being stretchered off during the match. “I didn’t believe the doctor when told that it would take me a year to return to competitive action,” exclaims Joshna. She put a positive spin to the enforced break by teaming up with former national champion Ritwik Bhattacharya to introspect and improve her game.
“It is easy to get depressed for not being able to play. My biggest motivation was to play for India again,” said the 30-year-old when asked what kept her going during such a tough time. “There is no substitute to hard work,” she adds.
Wants to give back to the sport
She is glad to see more facilities come up for the sport and believes that there is room for many more. She also insists on the importance of education for youngsters as it serves as an important back-up option. Wishing that squash is promoted more in the country Joshna says, “I want to help out fellow players and would love to share my knowledge with upcoming players. It would be great to give back to the sport.”