Big guy, bigger ambitions
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Squash's original headline-maker from India - before Saurav Ghosal and Siddharth Suchde made PSA appearances seem routine - was Ritwik Bhattacharya, a formidable figure on the international circuit, who maxed his talent by matching the pros who were then his contemporaries on physical parameters. Not since then has an Indian career in squash evoked curiosity solely based on his physique. Mumbai lad Mahesh Mangaonkar, at 6 feet and a bit, would now like to impose his frame on squash's glass-walled competitive chambers. With Bhattacharya playing the perfect mentor.
But the lanky lad will first need to take the "disappointing bronze" from the British Junior Open into his long stride, even as he winds up his colt career without the prestigious title he was coveting for the longest. "I wasn't expecting to finish 3rd, I wanted to win," he said from Sheffield where he plans to train for a week before proceeding to Barcelona to take part in a lower rung PSA meet.
Bhattacharya, now based out of Mumbai, meanwhile preaches patience when summing up his ward's juniors career. "I think he's done very well for someone who is 18. Yes, he wanted to win the British Juniors this time, but he's definitely a good potential for the future and he'll start doing well in the next couple of years," says the new guide, who's enthusiastic about shepherding the youngster. "His work ethic's unbelievable and he's really working very hard," he adds of the 18-year-old who made the semis at the Senior Men's Nationals.
The challenge for the big guy in the coming years will be how best to mould those god-given 180 cms and a commensurate wing-span to squash-worthiness. "He's a well-built guy and very strong and fit for his age, and we've not had an Indian player with that sort of a frame. But he's still not used his size and strength and power to his fullest potential and that will be the challenge in the seniors," says the former pro who reached No 38 in the world. "Playing at that level week in week out will be a task in itself," he says keen to set targets realistically for his charge whom he started working with a fortnight before the World Juniors.