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From Basketball Courts to Squash: The Journey of Navya Sundararajan

From becoming the Bengal Junior Open champion to pursuing Olympics glory, here’s all about Navya Sundararajan’s pursuit of squash journey

From Basketball Courts to Squash: The Journey of Navya Sundararajan

Sukanya Adhikary

Updated: 14 March 2024 7:48 AM GMT

Ranked at Number 3 in India in the girls’ Under-17 category, Navya Sundararajan’s journey is marked by discipline, time management, and support from her family, school, and the entire squash community.

Her journey in sports started with playing Basketball as a kid. She would eventually accompany her brother to squash tournaments, and that’s when her parents decided to put her in squash training as well.

“I think I started off playing both squash and basketball. None of them were serious. Once you start playing a sport competitively, you can say goodbye to all other sports, because there is literally no time.” said Navya.

She truly got serious and wanted to make a name for herself representing her country at the highest level. After COVID, there was no looking back, as she continued her endeavours to achieve her goal. Her current coach helped her understand her true potential and pushed her to do better everyday. And thus, the journey began.

Central to Navya’s success is her family, whom she fondly describes as her pillars of strength. Her mother plays the role of a constant guide in her athletic pursuits. From deciding her diet chart to planning her travel and accommodation, everything is managed by her mother. Her brother gives her the best advice regarding squash while she looks up to her father for his rational advice that helps her confront any difficult situations.

In a recent interview with The Bridge, Sundararajan shared insights into her rigorous schedule, where she juggles between four hours of daily squash training and her academic studies. She is currently a student at Shiv Nadar School, Noida, preparing for her 10th grade exams. She aims to attend a top Ivy League school abroad and take part in a varsity sports program while pursuing her Olympic dreams in 2028. For now, her focus is on acing the 10th board exams.

Winning the JSW Willingdon Masters, 2024 is one of the highlights of her athletic career, as she emerged as the defending champion after defeating Chhavi Saran in the finals.

“I was excited to be playing because I got to hangout with squash players after a long time. And there was a PSA tournament happening as well. It's always fun to go to Mumbai. It's my favourite city in the world because of Marine Drive,” she recalls.

Her favourite memory in squash career remains to be her first final match at the Bengal Junior Open, playing in the Under 13 category, in Kolkata.

“When it comes to me and winning, I think, the second I won I got breathless and I couldn’t breathe,” she recalls the moment of winning the match.

Navya appreciates HCL’s effort of promoting the sport. Collaborating with the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI), they introduced the HCL Squash Podium Program in 2019, with the goal of changing the squash ecosystem in India. Several squash camps, PSA tournaments, tours, and physical and mental health support are organised as a part of this program.

Her involvement in HCL tournaments, which she attributes to accelerating squash's progress in India, has refined her skills in the sport. Navya feels there is a lot of scope for improvement in her game. HCL’s coaching camps with foreign experts gave her an opportunity to elevate her skills.

“For me, personally, travelling and preparing for well organised tournaments does make a difference in how I perform. Thanks to HCL, I have been able to identify the mistakes in my gameplay and be able to rectify them. It goes a long way in improving my skill set,” she admits.

“Squash is a mentally draining game, there are no ways around it. To stay focused, a player should sportingly accept both their wins and losses with the same amount of determination and discipline and one cannot get too satisfied after the win and too demotivated after the loss, either.” says Navya.

Reflecting on the revolution of squash in India, Navya sees promising signs of growth, with increased recognition and participation in the sport. The very recent victory at the Asian Games in 2023, has made the game popular in the country. Addition of squash at the LA 2028 Olympics will give players an opportunity to represent India at an international stage, hence increasing the exposure of the sport in the nation overall.

As she continues to pursue excellence both on and off the squash court, Navya looks up to her favourite squash player, Arjuna Awardee, Joshna Chinappa, whom she once met at the beginning of her career. With her consistent discipline and unwavering support from family and coaches, she looks forward to excel at the 2028 Olympics.

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