Court call with Dipika Pallikal
As you read this, Arjuna Awardee Dipika Pallikal might probably be training at the World Squash Team Championships in France. Quietly, India's squash sensation continues to give the country much to cheer for in a sport with a small fan following, even as the silverware continues to grace her mantlepiece. In a candid chat, the young champ talks about life on and off court, her grandmom's dosas, and why she loves to chill with family
What made you pick up squash?
My being a squash player is a story of coincidences! My best friend and closest friend to date, Praneetha, was heading to a squash summer camp through the day, which meant I would have to spend a day of my summer holiday alone. As an eight-year-old, a day without your best friend is the most depressing thought ever! So, after much begging and pleading with my mother, I ended up following Praneetha to the squash court, and the rest, as they say, is history, given that ever since I spent time on the squash court, I could not get off it!
Once you decided to play squash competitively, how did your family and friends react? Were they supportive about your decision?
I have been fortunate to be born into a family of sportspeople, who have all competed at either the state or national level. So, for them it was not a tough choice to encourage the daughter of the house to pursue sport, competitively. And, their support has been extensive, including encouraging me to move to Egypt at 14 to train with its national coach Amir Wagih. I don’t think I would be where I am today without the continuous support, direction and encouragement I receive from my family every day!
Typically, squash is not one of the more watched sports in India; does that bother you at any level?
As an athlete, I focus on playing my sport to the best of my abilities and bringing home as many titles and laurels that I can. While I may not get the recognition that more popular sports people get, it does not change my dedication to excellence and my passion for the sport.
What are your favourite pastimes when you aren’t playing squash? How do you switch off in your free time?
Given that I spend so many months on the circuit, I am away from my family for extended periods of time. So, when I am not playing, I like to take time off and hang out with my family and my close friends, mostly doing nothing!
What about music and movies: any favourite actors, singers and songs?
I’m a big movie buff. But I am not very picky; I’ll watch anything and everything!
Are you a foodie? What are your preferred cuisines? Any favourite restaurants from around the world?
Yes, I do enjoy my food a lot! I love the dosas my grandmom makes. I spend many hours at the breakfast table, gorging on dosas when I am back home. However, I also love Thai cuisine. My favourite restaurant is BANN in New York, a Korean barbecue place that serves amazing food.
You remain on tour for long periods; how do you to unwind after a hard day on court?
All the training and competing gets extremely arduous at times, and after a long day I like coming back to my home for the night to relax! While I am on tour, I look forward to getting back to my room and chatting with my family, and de-stressing while they fill me in on things back home.
Dipika’s wall of fame
>> 2002: Won her first Indian Juniors Nationals title
>> 2003-08: Won German Open, Belgium Open, Scottish Open, French Open, Australian Open, Asia Junior Individual Championship, Pioneer Open, Nordic Junior Open
>> 2009: Nominated for the ‘Young Player of the Year’ award at the World Squash Awards
>> 2009: 13th World Junior Women’s Championship, bronze medalist
>> 2009: Winner, British Open
>> 2010: Asian Games, bronze medallist
>> 2010: Entered senior circuit, won the WISPA Indian Challenger No 5
>> 2011: Won three WIPSA titles — Orange County Open, Dread Sports Squash Series and CROCODILE Squash Challenge Cup 201
>> 2012: First Indian ever to reach the summit clash of a Silver Event (she reached the final of the Tournament of Champions Squash Meet in New York).
>> 2012: First Indian player (at the Australian Squash Open) to reach the semi-finals of a Gold Series Event
>> 2012: Arjuna Award