Varshaa realises a childhood dream

personality

Fresh from her Senior National snooker title, Varshaa Sanjeev has decided to take a break from her studies to focus on the game. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

This February young cueist Varshaa Sanjeev finally crossed a barrier that had proved herculean for her, capturing the national snooker championship. Amongst a handful of talented and hard-working female snooker and billiards players in the country, Varshaa has enjoyed considerable success since her Sub-junior and Junior days — nine national titles a testament to it.

A cut above the rest in the junior category, she aspired to wear the senior crown since first mounting a challenge in 2014 as a teenager. While she knew she belonged at the senior level, titles though eluded her. She had to settle for silver medal in billiards in 2017 and in snooker last year. The runner-up finish in snooker though hurt her the most.

Playing at KSBA — a place where she practices and which is like a second home to many cueists from the city — the 22-year-old had Amee Kamani under the mat after taking a 3-1 lead. But, as they say it ain’t over until it’s over, Varshaa took her foot slightly off the pedal assuming she had taken a substantial lead. Amee, among the new crop of attack-minded players on the women’s circuit, smelt a chance to make a comeback and she grabbed it with both hands to snatch the crown from Varshaa’s grasp, posting a 4-3 win.

“That title should have been mine and I let it slip away from my watch,” rued Varshaa in a chat with DH. “I don’t know how to describe my meltdown that day. It wasn’t like I played badly in the final three frames. Losing that final really hurt me a lot. That defeat really stoked the competitive fire inside me. I was extremely determined to make up for that heartbreak this year.”

And she did so in tremendous fashion. Despite having just entered the final semester of her engineering and not much time to prepare, she travelled to Indore with a point to prove. But the moment she saw the draw, self-doubts crept in. She was pitted to play defending champion Amee in the quarterfinals, a player to whom she had suffered some chastening defeats in competitive tournaments. Even if she managed to break the Amee hold, seasoned and multiple national champion Vidya Pillai and gutsy Arantxa Sanchis lie in wait. Varshaa decided the only way she could triumph was to go all-out and she did so to make her childhood dream come true in Indore.

“I was determined to beat everyone this time. I didn’t think about my opponent. All three wins were equally fulfilling but I would rate the win over Amee in the quarterfinals as the most rewarding. It was a very significant win that changed my entire self-belief. I’d been losing to her continuously for sometime. I’d only beaten her in selection camps but not in any competitive tournaments.

“I was pretty nervous to play her in the quarterfinals. I knew I could beat her but then past defeats in proper tournaments were bogging me down. That win was very crucial to me. I wouldn’t say Amee was a jinx but it was a barrier that I’d never crossed. The win really lifted the monkey off my back. That immensely boosted my self-confidence and I just rode on that adrenaline en route to my maiden senior crown,” added a delighted Varshaa.

Having had to shuffle between the extremely demanding engineering course and playing, Varshaa now wants to devote the next two years for cue sports to turn more dreams into reality.

“When I won my first title, I was in my eighth semester. Since studies are not there now, I can put in a lot more effort and get better results. I’m taking a two-year break from studies. I’m going to concentrate on snooker and try and play all the tournaments. I can now travel frequently to Mumbai to train under Sanjay Sawant sir. Even for tournaments, I’ll get more time to practice. For example, for the 6-red worlds next month, I can practice for longer durations now. Earlier, that was not the case. Engineering is not an easy discipline to ace and it squeezes the life out of you. Managing both was extremely difficult. Now, snooker is my one and only priority.”

Varshaa, whose father is also an engineer and runs his own software firm, has set her sights on two big events — IBSF World Snooker in Turkey and Team Snooker Championship in Myanmar — for which she has qualified as India No. 1.

“I’ve been practicing a lot and I’m pretty confident. Ng On-yee from Hong Kong is a very tough competitor. The Thai girls are tough to beat, they won both the 6-red and 15-red world titles. Wendy Jans is a legend. I really have to play beyond my best to win a medal but I’m feeling confident about myself. A medal at the world championship could be that next big step in my career.”

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