Sunayna says it was her cousin and squash player Dipika Pallikal, who inspired her to take up the sport.

Want to break into top 60 of squash rankings Chennais Sunayna prepares for Asiad
Sports Asian Games Monday, July 16, 2018 - 15:54

Third-year visual communications student Sunayna Kuruvilla, from MOP Vaishnav College in Chennai, is all set to represent India at the Asian Games to be played in Jakarta in August.

Talking to TNM from her home in Chennai, the 19-year-old squash player is brimming with confidence.

She laughs when asked the most cliched question that is normally thrown at students who do other activities along with their studies. How does she balance academics and professional sport?

“I’ve been playing squash since I was nine years old, so it doesn’t feel like a balancing act anymore," she says. 

“My parents were initially a little apprehensive about me taking part in sports as they felt that my academics would take a back seat but I was someone who wanted to ace everything I did, whether it is studies or squash, so that was taken care of.”

This Chennai-based player will be the third member of the Indian team which includes top players like Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal, who also happens to be Sunayna’s cousin.

Sunayna credits Dipika for being the reason she fell in love with the sport.

Dipika, who is one of the leading squash players of the country, enrolled 9-year-old Sunayna for a summer coaching camp and it was from there, according to Sunayna, that she developed a passion for the sport.

Sunayna now has two back-to-back under 19 National Squash Championship titles under her belt and following her second title at Ajmer in 2017, she was ranked number 1 in India’s junior squash circuit.

Just after the Asian games in Jakarta, Sunayna is scheduled to play at the World Women’s Team Championship at China in September.

“I knew 2018 was going to be a big year for me and I’ve been working towards it,” says Sunayna who goes on to add that being the third member of the team, she wants to be prepared so that her teammates can count on her.

“I’m up by 6 am on a normal day and I train with my coach for about an hour after which I head to the gym and later in the evening I spend around one and a half hours on match play,” says Sunayna, who is currently 89 in the world rankings.

In between her training, college work and tournaments, Sunayna admits that she has no time to socialise with her friends, unlike most people her age.

“I’m very close to my school friends and they understand when I say I can’t meet them, because of my tight schedules.”

“In college, I hardly socialise. I’m just there,” she quips.

For a person of her age, the kind of achievements she has amassed over the years is no mean feat.

When asked about how her parents feel, she grins and says that they are used to it as her cousin Dipika has been doing it for years.

To reach the heights where she is today, Sunayna admits the odds were stacked against her.

“There will always be people who will tell you that you won’t be able to do it and that you shouldn’t do it which will make you question yourself.”

“There are moments of self-doubt when you start questioning yourself as to whether you’ve taken the right choice or not,” says Sunayna who goes on to add that there is always a big risk involved when you choose a career in sports.

“And that was a risk I was willing to take because this is something I love to do.”

“I really believe that if you have a goal in mind and that you’re willing to work towards it, then nothing can stop you,” she says.

Speaking about her goals, Sunayna says that her long-term aim is to become the highest ranking Indian squash player just like Joshna and Dipika.

“At the moment, I want to break into the top 60 in the world rankings by the end of the year.”

The talented player represented India at the 2015 World junior championship as well as 2015 Asian junior championship, where she won a bronze medal.

Sunayna also won a gold medal against Pakistan at the 2016 South Asian Games and currently trains at the Indian Squash Academy in Tamil Nadu.