Asian Championship : Velavan keen to make a mark

File Photo : Velavan Senthilkumar
SPORTINGINDIA|26-Apr-2017 15:27

Chennai: Velavan Senthilkumar has a spring in his walk now. Confidence personified, the young Chennai player, the current Asian junior champion and U-19 British junior Open champion is truly enjoying his stint in the senior ranks. Having reached two successive finals recently in the PSA world tour events in South Africa, Velavan's only regret is that he could not grab his maiden title. On both occasions he became victim to the Egyptian Mohamed Elsherbini, who he admitted, “played to much higher potential.”

In the Asian Individual Championship in Chennai now, the young man made a perfect start, a fluent win over Iranian Soheil Shamoli. With the Pakistan players failing to make it, Velavan will gets a walk-over straight away in the round of 32 and is now assured of a pre-quartefinal final spot. The rise seemed poetic justice for this ebullient player who is keen to make an early impact in the senior ranks. But how long will this beautiful tale continue, is the question. As it happens to players of his age, there is a demand for dividing time for studies. He has finished schooling and now his excellence in squash has helped him get a passage to the USA for further studies. “Yes, by September I join Columbia University for my undergraduate studies in Economics,” said the smiling soft-spoken lad who can be such an aggressive force on the court.

Velavan said he hoped to play two or three more PSA tournaments by September in addition to a good rest post the Asian Championship. “I am keen to continue playing professional squash even as a student in Columbia. I do not see any hurdle in dividing time,” he said, though heart of hearts he knows it will be a tall demand. Players like Anaka Alankamony and Kush Kumar who are both in the USA for higher studies have not been exactly as free for higher grade squash as they had expected prior to leaving Indian shores.

Studies cannot be stopped, as Velavan's father Senthilkumar, a businessman, submitted in a humble way. “If there was any chance of his continuing in any famous institution in India and play squash also, Vela could have done that. Now that he had got an opportunity in a reputed institution abroad, it was difficult but we had to take a decision,”he said. It was the parents wish too that Velvan would be able to continue serving Indian squash to the best of his abilities. As Cyrus Poncha, the national coach said, for the Indian Squash Academy where he had been training for several years now, Velavan has been a prized product.

Meanwhile Velavan himself was not giving too much thought to the period ahead. His focus was now on doing well in the Asian championship. He recalled with a sense of satisfaction the good run he had in the two tournaments in South Africa. “May be if our coach Achraf Sir was there, I could have won,” he said tongue-in-cheek. His confidence stemmed from Achraf's role in the British Junior Open. “It was his presence, advice and and encouragement that helped me in my rise to title-success. I am referring particularly to the semi-final win against the second seed Egyptian Youssef Ibrahim. It was his tactical input that was the turning point in that match,” he said.

The Egyptian Coach is here with the boys and girls as they play and Velavan is keenly looking forward to his inputs as he awaits greater challenges.