An ankle strain has forced defending champion Dipika Pallikal to pull out of the 74th Senior National Squash Championship at the last minute, dealing a blow to the premium domestic event to be held in Greater Noida this week.
Pallikal decided against playing her first round match on Wednesday, fearing an aggravation of the injury ahead of the pro season opening China Open from August 29 to September 3.
“It’s very unfortunate that I have to pull out. As I have an important season coming up, I thought I needed to be fully fit before the new season starts,” Pallikal told PTI after informing the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) about her withdrawal from the Nationals.
“We all have an important year coming up, next year is a huge year for us as we have the CWG and Asian Games, so I feel that to be properly ready for the season I needed to give my ankle some time to heal before I rush to match practice.
“I will definitely miss playing the nationals as I was looking forward to defending my title,” the 25-year-old added.
A title clash between longtime friends and India teammates, Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa, has been a top draw at the Nationals for a while but the fans will now have to be contend with a potential men’s singles final between India number one Saurav Ghosal and Harinder Pal Sandhu.
Pallikal had got the better of 14-time winner Chinappa in the final last year when she played the event for the first time in five years after the organisers decided to offer equal prize money in men’s and women’s singles.
Chinappa avenged the defeat by beating Pallikal in the 2017 Asian Championship final for probably the biggest title of her career.
Like last edition, Nationals organiser HCL has kept equal prize money with the men’s and women’s winner pocketing Rs.1.5 lakh each. The total prize money is Rs.11 lakh.
The championship will see a record participation of 550 players with 313 entries in men’s singles and 65 in women’s singles.
The event, to be played at the campus of Shiv Nadar University, was launched here today in the presence of top stars Ghosal and Chinappa.
Both players were asked about the importance of playing Nationals despite a hectic pro tour and the recent trend of having equal prize money.
“Playing the Nationals has always been important for me. It is great that there is equal prize money now but honestly, I would play irrespective of the prize money,” said Chinappa.
Defending men’s champion Ghosal added: “It is very tough for me to say whether equal prize money is the right thing to do considering there is a lot of disparity in the entries.
“However, I do hope that having equal prize money can attract a lot more youngsters to the game in the next five to 10 years. That will be indeed a positive.”