Asian Games: Man who wanted to quit squash in 2021 wins gold for India with dramatic win against Pakistan
Hangzhou: In December 2021, Abhay Singh was considering quitting squash altogether after failing to make it to the Indian squad for some important events. Then he was picked in the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
He changed his mind, played in a tournament to prepare for CWG and won his first Challenger Tour event in Lorient, France, in May 2022. He went to play in the Commonwealth Games and continued with playing squash.
It proved to be a good decision as on Saturday, Abhay Singh scripted history for India as he came back from the brink of defeat to beat Pakistan’s Noor Zaman 3-2 in the third match, winning the match after facing a matchball at 8-10. He won the next two points to tie scores at 10-all and then secured victory for India by winning the next two points for a 12-10 win in the fifth game and a sensational victory. He won the match 11-7, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 12-10 in a dramatic finisih that had the fans in the entire stadium sitting on the edge of their seats.
Abhay said he would like to dedicate this victory to his senior teammates — Saurav Ghosal, Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu and Mahesh Mangaonkar.
“If this is any of their last Asian Games (the older players in the squad – Ghosal, Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu and Mahesh Mangaonkar), this one is for them. This one is for the three boys who came back.
“I have to do something for them, for all the sacrifices they have put in to be here, to send them out in a good way.
“It’s for them but most importantly for my country,” Abhay said after the match.
He said Ghosal did not give him any pep talk during the match but his presence on the bench itself was a confidence booster.
“It was not really a pep talk, he’s the GOAT (greatest of all time). To have him in your corner, just to be there for you, it’s emotionally very comforting, looking out at him,” he said.
Abhay also dedicated the win to his parents, who has sacrificed a lot to let him pursue squash.
“My dad comes from very humble beginnings. He comes from Uttar Pradesh and moved to Chennai early on, which is a blessing in disguise. We live five minutes away from the national centre, the Indian Squash Academy in Chennai.
“Living so close is very beneficial. I train every day there, even now. Chennai is the place. I’ve seen how much this means to them (parents),” he said.
Abhay called up his father soon after the match but could not speak for long and instead shed tears of joy.
“My dad was at work – he was watching and picked up the phone. I was just crying. I couldn’t say much, but my mum was taking a nap, so she probably couldn’t answer the phone. She’s a heart patient, so she doesn’t watch me play so much,” he said.
Abhay remembered the sacrifices his family had made to help him be successful.
“My parents have sacrificed so much for (me), whether it be my dad helping me financially to get me where I am as a squash player, or my mum travelling the world with me as a child, so I could gain exposure,” he added.
Now that he has played a crucial role in helping India script a memorable victory, Abhay will be hoping to get more chances of playing in top events and continue to live up to his dream. The Asian Games gold adds fuel to his desires, it is now for him to script further success.