Rahul showing plenty of promise

Rahul Sanjay Balakrishnan is all smiles after winning the under-11 title in the just-concluded 5Sports Century Bangalore Open squash tournament. DH PHOTO/ SRIKANTA SHARMA R

Rahul Sanjay Balakrishnan was hard to miss at the recently-concluded 5Sports Century Bangalore Open squash tournament here.

Sporting a mohawk, the 10-year-old from Bengaluru, emerged as a standout performer at the event. He tore his opponents to shreds in the initial stages before battling past Aryaveer Dewan of Delhi in the final to clinch the under-11 title.

This was his first trophy in the under-11 category. “I am so happy,” said Rahul, a student of Delhi Public School, South.

“For the first time, I have won an under-11 title. I knew the game and I knew could beat (the opponent),” he added.

Rahul picked up the sport from his father Sanjay Balakrishnan, who played at the Bangalore Club.

The father-son duo would travel together to the venue where Rahul keenly watched his father swing the racquet. “He would come with me to the Bangalore Club. We took the bus and sometimes the bike to come,” recalled Balakrishnan. “Whenever he was around, he was very happy to watch us.”

Observing his interest in the sport, squash coach Dominic, at the club, took him under his wings. Rahul was six at the time.

“For the first one and half years, he just practiced. It was fun for him. He really enjoyed it,” Balakrishnan said.

“Dominic was the one who trained and very patiently taught him to play.”

In 2015, Rahul started taking part in tournaments and for the first two years, he played in the under-9 section. However, he didn’t have the best of starts, losing his first competitive match. “That was the Maharashtra Open after that he went to the Pune Open and to Western India Open at the Cricket Club of India,” remembered Balakrishnan.

Rahul won his first under-9 title in 2016 at the Western India Open. “He was unseeded and he beat the number three seed and then the top seed to emerge triumphant,” his father, an HR professional, said.

The Karnataka boy was ranked 176 when he moved up to the under-11 category, now he is India number eight in that section. The youngster has put in his fair share of effort to achieve it. His mother Sreekala Sanjay, a teacher at the DPS, South, takes care of his studies.

“He trains about 15 hours a week. So he plays for an hour in the morning for three days a week. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he trains in the evening for four hours,” his father explained.

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Rahul showing plenty of promise

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