Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 | Last Update : 07:28 PM IST
The last few years have been tough for squash player Mahesh Mangaonkar. However, he is back in the circuit to wash out the blues.
In the latter half of 2017 right before the nationals, he was just 22 and trying to go the extra mile to make a name for himself in the squash circuit. He believed that he could go higher in the rankings, but it did not work out perfectly. The pressure of maintaining a stable spot in the world rankings started affecting his game and that was when Mahesh Mangaonkar, now 23, thought hanging up his boots would be the best for him.
He went to Saurav Ghosal who is India’s top-ranked squash player for advice and many other people. In the same nationals tournament, he went on to play the finals against Ghosal to emerge the runner-up. “I thought when I turn 50-60; I don’t want to regret this decision of quitting,” says Mahesh.
“I thought if I give up now and something good does not happen in the other field, I would have to quit that as well,” he says.
The Borivali boy left his home pretty early to pursue squash when he moved to Holland at the age of 17. His talent has been special for himself as well as the country as he helped India grab a gold in the 2014 Asian Games.
Mahesh joined the Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour in 2009 but had to wait for three years before claiming his first title. It came at the Prague Open at the expense of Lucas Serme in the final and he would go on to claim back-to-back wins over Greg Lobban in the final of the IMET Open and the Open du Gard in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
After such a record, any athlete would want to extend it and in order to do so, Mahesh lost his groove. “In my PSA career, the first two years did not go as I thought but the third year went really well. I started getting good wins. I had a good match with a top ten player and then I beat a few of the top 30 players. I reached my career best rank, which was 44,” he reminisces.
In the start of 2015, I had a few bad losses in a few tournaments. I lost because I put myself under a lot of pressure. I thought I could go higher in terms of rankings and perform better. I think the pressure part did play a role mentally. The whole year went like that. By the start of 2016, I found my groove and lost it again,” he further adds.
He is currently playing in front of the home fans and his family at the National Sports Club of India (NSCI) at the Vedanta Indian Squash Open 2018, which is promoted by 5 SPORTS. This will be his second tournament of the year. “My parents will be there to watch. My former fitness coach will be here as well. It’s always good to have home crowd — there’s pressure but there is excitement as well”
Road to CWG
After his return, Mahesh is also eyeing the big stage. Only three singles players will travel to play the Commonwealth Games from one country. Ghosal and Harinder Pal Sandhu are the two players already. The fight for the third spot is between Mahesh and Ramit Tandon from Kolkata.
“The squad will be chosen next month. The third spot is between Ramit and me. Both of us have the same rankings. I have a chance if I do well in the Windy City Open (Chicago),” he asserts.
A win here along with a good performance in Chicago will strengthen his chances of going to the Gold Coast in April. Hopefully, this time his topsy-turvy career will find the right rhythm.