Squash Doubles Association pro tour World No. 1 Manek Mathur a hit in the US

Jan 14, 2018, 11:49 IST | Noel D'Souza

Squash Doubles Association pro tour World No. 1 Manek Mathur making waves in the West after receiving no backing from Indian federation; Mumbai athlete keen to sizzle at home

Manek Mathur competes in an SDA pro tour tie in the US  in 2015
Manek Mathur competes in an SDA pro tour tie in the US  in 2015

World No. 1 in the Squash Doubles Association (SDA) pro tour Manek Mathur's name may not ring a bell in the country or even on the boulevard near Churchgate station, a stone's throw away from his residence in Mumbai. However, just a whisper of Mathur can send Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut into a non-stop frenzy. Such is the aura surrounding Mathur, 29, who first honed his squash skills on the courts of Bombay Gymkhana and later at the Cricket Club of India, while studying at the Cathedral and John Connon School, Fort. He then went to the United States to pursue his further education.

"I wanted to keep playing and get good education. At that point of time, the best option was Trinity," the brawny athlete, who now holds a Bachelor's degree in Global Studies and Music, told mid-day on Friday. Yes, he's a DJ as well and has performed at a couple of shows "to earn a little money".

Consistent performer
During school days, Mathur was a consistent performer at the junior squash level. "I was always No. 2 or 3 in the country while growing up. The No. 1 player was Sandeep Jangra. I lost to him in every final (2004 Nationals and 2005)," he said.

With such great performances under his belt in school, wouldn't a spot in the Indian team be up for grabs rather than a move to the West? "The federation (Squash and Rackets Federation of India) would ask me to leave school and come for camps, then go for trials and then may be go and play in events. That was something I just could never do. They had a great facility in Chennai, but for me, living in Mumbai and to pick up everything and go and train there was too much to ask for," Mathur said.
Now, in the US for the last 12 years, the SoBo player is part of the crème de la crème on the SDA circuit. Some of his highlights with Australian partner Damien Mudge include a 43-match unbeaten streak in 2016. However, their immaculate run was broken in October that year. Last month, they maintained their unbeaten record on their way to winning the pinnacle event of the SDA calendar, the biennial Briggs Cup.

'Wanna prove myself here'
Although Mathur is on a real high right now, to witness the adrenalin at home would be a different feeling altogether. "Yes, it would be awesome to come back here and play. Definitely, it hurts. I want to prove myself over here," he explained. "The change would be tough, but the general thought process would come naturally. It would be a lot better to have a doubles specialist than to have your singles guys play doubles and get fatigued. I don't see the need to push your same guys again and again when you have someone who is doing this on a day-to-day basis and is not really concerned about singles anymore," added Mathur, who shares a good bond with Indian squash stars like Saurav Ghosal, Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal.

Here again, the federation still won't pay heed to a talented youngster's ticket back to Indian shores. "I've spoken to the officials in the federation, but the requirements to qualify for the team are exhausting. It's hard to justify and then take time off work and leaving the club and 'maybe' make the team is not worth it for me.

"I would like to play in the Commonwealth Games for sure. I don't think how that would be possible for me to do it on my own. You do need your federation to push your name. The ball is in their court," Mathur, who also works as a Head Pro at the Rackets and Tennis Club of New York, concluded. Mathur returns back to New York City tomorrow after a short break in the city.

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