Abhay Singh’s rise to the squash stardom
Starting his journey from a fortuitous encounter with squash to now standing atop podiums at the Commonwealth and Asian Games, Abhay Singh brings a fresh perspective on the Indian squash scenario.
Abhay Singh, the emerging star in Indian squash, has scripted his own journey in the squash arena. Though there were a few obstacles that he encountered, he mentions that there is nothing that would beat the sweet taste of victories at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
Abhay Singh's squash journey began at the age of eight, quite by chance. Introduced to the game by a neighbor, when plans to join a tennis camp fell through, he took up squash as a hobby.
During his formative years, his ambitions leaned toward pursuing higher education abroad, using squash as a means to that end. However, his evolving passion for the sport led him to reconsider, and by the time he was 16 or 17, he committed to playing squash professionally.
As his journey unfolded, Abhay found inspiration in senior players like Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu, a veteran of Indian squash. Witnessing their achievements and learning from their experiences, Abhay gained valuable insights into the game. Being around seasoned players like Saurav Ghosal, Joshna Chinappa, Deepika Pallikal, and Ramit Tandon provided not just technical lessons but also insights into the mental fortitude required at the highest level.
“Yeah, I think just being around them at team events helps. They’ve experienced maybe five fixation games and been through the ups and downs. I think getting that sort of advice from them and seeing how they prepare for matches is an experience you can't really pay for.”, said Abhay about his experience with the seasoned players.
The 25-year-old squash sensation attributes a substantial part of his success to his parents, emphasizing their constant support. His mother, especially, traveled with him during his formative years when he couldn't navigate the global squash circuit alone. Financial backing from his father played a crucial role until government funding became a regular feature.
He provides insights into the distinctions between playing on the international PSA circuit and the domestic scene. While PSA events offer exposure to diverse playing styles and opponents, the domestic circuit in India is gaining strength with a rising crop of talented players.
Addressing common misconceptions about squash, Abhay emphasizes its demanding nature. Contrary to the belief that it involves minimal running, squash requires intense lunging and is recognized as one of the most physically demanding sports globally.
“I think, firstly, everyone knows it's physically a very demanding sport, very brutal on the body, fast-paced. There's not a lot of running, but there's a lot of lunging. It's really one of the toughest sports in the world. I think, compared to other sports, it's not up there yet in terms of how it's popular or famous.”, said Abhay Singh
Reflecting on some of the challenges in the sport, he sheds light on the financial hurdles faced by squash players in India. He stresses the need for financial backing and sponsorship to make a sustainable career in the sport. Without adequate support, the growth of squash as a profession in India faces significant hurdles.
While government support has been transformative, he emphasizes the need for corporate sponsorship to elevate the sport further. The shortage of funding remains a concern, and Abhay envisions the potential for growth if more sponsors step forward to support the federation in organizing major events.
“I think HCL has done much to elevate juniors and more such corporations need to step up because they can easily identify the gaps and fill them. Maybe getting a few big sponsors, even if it's not just for the players individually, something that can really help the federation host big events in India or bring down big players or coaches would really be helpful”, added Abhay Singh.
In the pursuit of fostering talent, HCL, a frontrunner in technology and sports partnerships, has played a pivotal role. Collaborating with the Squash Racket Federation of India (SRFI), HCL has undertaken important initiatives to nurture and promote young squash players.
“HCL’s Squash Podium Program has identified quite a few promising juniors and provided them with the necessary infrastructure, coaching, and exposure to elevate their game which is very much needed in today’s squash world,” highlighted Abhay.
Their strategic collaboration aims to strengthen the grassroots of Indian squash, ensuring a steady pipeline of talent for years to come. Abhay admits to contemplating quitting squash in 2021. At a critical juncture where the sport ceased to be as enjoyable, he faced a pivotal decision. The turning point came with the
Commonwealth Games trials, reigniting his determination. Fast forward to the Asian Games, and Abhay emerges as a medalist by clinching a gold in the men’s team event and a bronze in the mixed doubles event.His triumph at the Asian Games created waves on social media, with the nation celebrating his historic gold. He reflects on the unusual experience of squash gaining widespread attention and the joy of being a catalyst for the sport's popularity.
The Indian and Pakistani supporters added to the charged atmosphere during the final, an India-Pakistan clash that fueled emotions and made for an unforgettable experience.
With the Indian team winning a Gold in squash in the Hangzhou 2023 Asian Games, which was again an India-Pakistan clash, it was nothing short of historic. Abhay Singh, with his teammates Saurav Ghosal, Mahesh Mangaonkar, and Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu, created history in China, setting milestones for plenty of aspiring squash players to come.
Squash's inclusion in the Olympics brings a new dimension to Abhay's plans. While 2026 was always on the radar, the prospect of LA 2028 now looms large. He expresses his commitment to intensify efforts, acknowledging the increased investment in time and money required for this ambitious journey. The next five years are poised to be a period of growth and preparation for the Olympics.
Abhay delves into the invaluable lessons learned from senior players and the unique camaraderie with his doubles partner, Anahat Singh. While seniors like Saurav Ghosal and Joshna Chinnappa offer profound insights into the game, Anahat's youthful experience and serious approach to squash have also influenced Abhay positively. Together, they set plans for future tournaments.
Abhay Singh, despite battling an injury, remains optimistic about the future. His determination to overcome challenges and aim for greater heights is evident and his story serves as an inspiration for budding athletes that one's dreams can redefine the trajectory of life.