Game set for Dipika Pallikal

The 21-year-old squash player recently became the first Indian woman to break into top-10 world rankings. CS caught up with Dipika who was recently in the city as a part of an education drive:

Dipika Pallikal
Who: Dipika Pallikal
What: Talking about her life as a sportswoman
PIC/ Santosh Nagwekar

The balancing act
I always wanted to be an athlete. Although I started off with tennis, I soon realised that squash suited me better. This happened when I was 10 and I haven't looked back since. Over the years, I've travelled across the planet for one competition or the other. It's a constant trial and the trick is to avoid injury and stay healthy. Though I've been literally living out of my suitcase for the past seven years, I made sure I'm not neglecting academics. I took a gap last year due to tournaments, but I intend to complete my graduation soon. I feel that education can't be overlooked and this is the very reason behind my participation in this programme. We are reaching out to thousands of kids from faraway places who'll get a chance to attend school.

Popularity contest
As of now, squash is a relatively less popular sport in India but it's on an upward trend. More and more people, especially kids, are picking up squash racquets so it's a healthy sign. Besides, with more and more players doing well on the international circuit, squash is bound to get noticed. Something similar happened with badminton. I guess it will take four to five more years for squash to replicate the success. I believe that sportspersons need to be in the spotlight as they are ambassadors for their sport. But the focus should be on the game. My next  immediate goal is to break into the top five and then hopefully, become World No. 1 someday soon.

My coach, my idol
Had it not been for my family and close friends, I don't think I would have reached where I'm today. They form the core of my story and I'm simply thankful. I also feel that my coach Sarah Fitz-Gerald has made a huge difference to my career. Being someone who is six-time world champion herself and that too at a young age, she knows what goes into the making. Sarah's my role model! I give her a lot of credit. 

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