Game and match, Anahat Singh’s journey to the Commonwealth Games – Sportstar

Anahat has won almost 40 plus titles on the national circuit and has maintained her number 1 junior rank from under-11 to under-15.  | Photo Credit: PTI
14-year-old Anahat Singh on Friday made short work of her opponent Jada Ross from St Vincent and the Grenadines, beating her older opponent 11-5, 11-2, 11-0 on her Commonwealth Games debut.
While the scoreline might be startling for many, her road to the games is even more interesting. 
“I want to play on the PSA tour (Professional Squash Association tour) and be world champion,” the gutsy youngster told  Sportstar at the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai, right before her departure to Birmingham for the CWG. 
She had just got the better of two young boys in a pressure drill match.   
The teenager’s original stomping ground is the DDA Squash and Badminton Stadium in Delhi, often referred to as Siri Fort sports complex. She first started playing badminton there and then made her way across the corridor to pick up the squash racket much like her elder sister, Amira, who now plays for Harvard University. 
Though diminutive, this young gun knows how to pack a punch. Unlike most girls in her age group, Anahat wins matches on her agility and precision. 
To hit the squash ball in such a way that it sticks close to the side wall leaving no space in between is a skill treasured by most squash players her age. Most coaches would ask their wards to hit umpteen backhand and forehand straight drives alone to master the skill. But Anahat has been using this elusive aspect to her advantage since her under-11 days. 
She has won almost 40 plus titles on the national circuit and has maintained her number 1 junior rank from under-11 to under-15. 
The Delhi girl has extended her triumphs beyond local tournaments, beating the best in her age group at the U.S Junior Open, Asian Junior Championships and the British Junior Open.  
However, it must be noted that pure technical prowess doesn’t take you far in a game of squash, fitness perhaps trumps that. But, at 14, she has all the right answers – dashing across the court like a bullet. If you’re her opponent and try to hit a great drop to cut a long backcourt rally short, then it’s probably a lost cause with Anahat. 
“I was shocked that I got selected because I didn’t think I would be able to make it, but I am extremely excited now,” said Anahat with an innocent smirk on her face. She might not realise it yet but beating the senior professional players to make it to the Commonwealth Games squad counts for a lot.  
While she is excited, she has her head on her shoulders and is looking to take this as a learning opportunity, soaking in the advice from wiser players in Dipika Pallikal Karthik and Joshna Chinappa. 
“I am learning so much from them every day, it’s great to play with them because I’ve been looking up to them ever since I started playing,” she said. “They have been talking to me about the mentality of the sport and how to play the seniors.” 
Joshna, India’s number 1 player, is elated to have her in the squad. “It is so exciting; I can’t imagine how she must be feeling right now to go to such a big event and make her debut being just 14.”  
She chuckles on being asked if the youngster reminds her of herself from many years ago, “Maybe, yes, but she has hundred percent earned her right to be on the team doing so well in juniors, I’m hoping she has a great tournament.” 
While Anahat has certainly become the toast of the nation in the past few days, her parents remain her biggest cheerleaders. The couple is recognised by everyone in the squash fraternity in India not just because of both their daughters’ undeniable excellence but also because of their diligence, being present at every tournament and every practice session no matter where it is in the world. 
Anahat plays world number 19 Emily Whitlock of Wales in the round of 32 next, but no matter the result, the country is ready to sing her praise – if you don’t agree just type #AnahatSingh on Twitter.  
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