• Punj Lloyd PSA Masters  • 12-18 Dec 2011 • New Delhi, India •  

Punj Lloyd EXTRAS ...

Press On
16th December 2011

#4: When Vanessa met Saurav
not for the first time, obviously, but this time in India

You just recently won your national championships for the 7th time? That's an amazing achievement. Is the nationals a big deal over here? Does it get a lot of media attention?

Yeah, it's a really prestigious tournament for us and it's the only one that I always make sure I play. A lot of people that you don't see much over the year come out for the nationals to watch and see what Indian squash is all about.

The media attention depends a bit on where it's held. So the big cities like Delhi, Bombay, Chennai tend to get more media attention.

This week obviously your focus is on the Punj Lloyd Masters. How do you find it playing a big PSA tournament this at home in front of a home crowd? Do you get more nervous or do you prefer it?

I absolutely love it! Yeah there is pressure but it's a privilege and I love it that people come out and support me and shout for me. Everything is really comfortable and convenient playing here and you always want to do well. So yeah I love playing here and hopefully there will be many more tournaments here in the future.

You've had a good tournament so far, coming through a tough first round against Julian Illingworth. Are you happy with how you're playing at the moment?

Yeah, I feel like I'm hitting the ball really well at the moment. To come off 3 love against some one like him is a really good result for me.

Today's match will be tough. Peter Barker is a really solid player, he's had a great season which shows in his number 7 ranking. He will be hard to break down but hopefully I can play well and makes some inroads into his game.

 You live in Leeds and train in Pontefract with Malcolm Willstrop. How much of an effect has that had on your game?

I think I said after my win against Tarek Momen in Kuwait that everything I am as professional player today, leaving my junior days aside, is because of Malcolm. Training with people like Lee Beachill and James Willstrop on a daily basis and seeing what it takes to be a top player has been invaluable.

Malcolm has a unique way of training at Pontefract, we train with all different standards of players and mix in together. But the most important thing is that the sessions are always really enjoyable.

Do you think up and coming players in India need to move abroad if they want to make it to the top level?

At the moment I don't think we have enough top level coaches in India to be able to produce top players. We have some good juniors but the professional level is a different ball game all together.

So yeah it's a difficult decision to make when you're 17 or 18 to leave your home and go and live alone in a foreign country but you need to go out and see what other people are doing if you want to make it to the top.

Also I think the weather is a big factor. Growing up in India, most of the clubs don't have any air-conditioning and as a result the ball is always really bouncy so we can just flick it around. Whereas on the glass court for example you can't do that.

When the juniors go over to England for the British Junior Open they can't understand why the ball doesn't come back and they really fall short.

If you go over to Europe it teaches you to hit through the ball more on colder courts and you need to do that on a continuous basis if you want to learn.

What are your future plans? I know you were considering going back to studying at one point? Are you going to stick with squash for the foreseeable future?

Right now the studying has taken a bit of a back seat. I'm enjoying my squash at the moment which is important because if I'm not enjoying something I'm not going to be very successful at it.

As far as future plans are concerned, myself and Siddarth Suchde, the Indian number 2, are looking at starting an e-commerce venture.

It's in its gestation period at the moment so we're working towards that right now. It's an sports e-commerce venture and when it does come out I think it could be really good. It will be focussed towards India to start with because it's a massive undertaking but eventually we hope to take it to the world.

It's an interesting chapter to run parallel with squash which both of us are really looking forward to and are quite excited about. We are still learning and with the bureaucratic nature of things in India, even just getting registered is really difficult and there's so many details to take care of. But it's been a good ride and we're both enjoying it so as of now that's the plan outside of squash.

Indian Press
15th December 2011

Vanessa Atkinson in Delhi - #3:

Snowed under and
under the weather in Delhi ...

What a couple of days it's been. I have to say, I have a new found respect for Steve and Fram.

Due to Malcolm's 'visa issues' (there is a long and funny story to this that I don't have the time or space for), I was laden with the full responsibility for the match reports until his arrival. So eight matches on Monday to report on, alongside my mc duties.

To be honest, I didn't mind watching all the matches at all, I most likely would have done anyway. But the taking of notes, writing reports, getting the post-match comments, and preparing my introductions was tasking to say the least. To think that at some tournaments, Steve and Fram are covering 32, sometimes more, matches in a day is mind boggling.

To make things worse, I'm not well. Not Delhi-belly just a good old fashioned cold; my coughing fits have been causing some alarm amongst the organisers and volunteers at the stadium.

Yesterday I was given cough drops, cough syrup, and some hardcore cold medicine by three different people, which I took all at once only noticing the 'may cause drowsiness' label as I was glugging the cough syrup from the bottle. I apologise to anyone who noticed any slurring during the player intros!

Anyway, enough of my woes, the first two days are behind us, Malcolm has arrived and we're onto the first half of the last 16 tonight.

The past couple of days have seen a few entertaining matches, Mueller's effort against Willstrop stands out I have to say, no bias intended. Mueller is an incredible talent and at times Ramy Ashour-like in his ability to put the ball away. He had Willstrop under the cosh for much of the first and portions of the second game, forcing the number three seed to dig deep to stave off the challenge.

Unfortunately, the gross of the matches over the first two days were relatively comfortable straight game affairs. Even the couple of minor upsets by Richards and Golan didn't extend beyond three games. However, this could certainly change from today onwards with some potential thrillers on the cards. The Anjema/Mosaad match is the pick of the bunch for me with the in form Golan against El Shorbagy a close second.

Vanessa Atkinson in Delhi - #2:
Preparations almost over ...

Preparations are well underway here at the Siri Fort complex for the onslaught of matches starting at 12pm. Due to the cancellation of the main guest, the opening ceremony will now be a somewhat simpler affair with the entertainment shifted to the closing ceremony on Sunday.

I get the feeling that things are never really fixed here in India, plans are made loosely and then amended where necessary, which suits me down to the ground; flexibility is key.

Either way the main attraction, the matches of course, will proceed according to schedule and the players are getting themselves ready and acclimatising to the conditions as we speak.

Notable match for the spectators will be national player Siddarthe Suchde who will be taking on the mighty Gregory Gaultier. Siddarthe just competed in the Indian National Championships in Chennai, losing surprisingly to Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu in the semi-finals. He will be disappointed with that result I'm sure and all the more determined to put up a good show against Gregory tomorrow. Playing on home soil can be a real challenge and the added pressure can easily overwhelm.

Saurav Ghosal, the newly crowned national champion here in India will know that feeling all too well having competed in front of his home crowd on numerous big occasions. As the first round draw is split, he will start his campaign on Tuesday against the sole American player in the draw, Julian Illingworth.

On a side note, I picked up the biography of former Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi, at the hotel bookshop yesterday and have already devoured the first few chapters. 'Mother India', as she was affectionately known, was brutally assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984 after almost four decades at the helm of one of the most powerful and populated third world countries.

So far, her history which is intertwined with the country's own turbulent history, is making for a fascinating read and much of her political life was played out in this very city. Better than reading the Delhi 'lonely planet' guide book anyway.

#1: Vanessa's first time in India

After a long and frankly arduous flight (the woman next to me seemed to think that half of my seat belonged to her), I have finally made it to Delhi.

During my 16 years on the tour I somehow never made it to India and have always wanted to experience a little of this country I have read and heard so much about.

I am hugely excited at the prospect of tasting the local food, which as Saurav Ghosal never fails to point out, is rather different to the standard kormas and chicken tikka masalas we gorge ourselves on every Saturday night in Britain.

My first impression on walking outside is that it is much cooler than I expected, in my imagination India is always hot and humid but to my surprise and delight the weather is very mild this time of year. It is also much less crowded than I expected; beyond the hustle and bustle of the airport we drive along wide roads which are often flanked by high walls.

I expect a look behind these walls might reveal another side to the country than I have seen so far.

The tournament accommodation is the luxurious five star Oberoi Hotel which is enclosed within beautiful grounds. With spacious rooms, three restaurants, a gym and spa and outdoor pool area, I don't think the players will have much to complain about here.

From here it's only a short car ride to the squash complex, the Siri Fort stadium, which was the venue for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The stadium has eight glass back courts and a permanent all-glass court on which all the matches will be played.

Organiser Kandarp Chandra seems to have everything in order and an opening ceremony, including a 'sand artist' and live music, will precede the onset of matches on Monday.

Unlike previous years, in which tickets were for sale, the entry will be free of charge for the duration of the tournament, so hopefully we can expect a full house towards the end of the week.



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