However, the identity crisis that affects most budding talents is no longer bothering Sunayna as the 18-year-old has gone about her pursuit of carving a niche in the racket sport with a steady sequence of impressive results. Her latest trophy yield has fetched her the U-19 national championship triumph in Ajmer on Monday when she brushed aside the challenge of Chennai girl Ashita Pranaya in straight sets — 11-2, 11-0, 11-6.
“This is my second U-19 national title. It was an easy win and in the last three years I have never lost to her. We both train at the Indian Squash Academy and are familiar with each other’s style of play. I won my first championship almost a year ago in Indore beating the Mumbai girl Akanksha. That was a path-breaking win in many ways since I went into the match with an inferior head-to-head record as she beat me more than 20 times and I was elated at turning the tables on her in a decisive contest,” recalled Sunayna. The teen-wonder, who is the undisputed number one in India in her age-group category, says she will quit playing in the junior circuit and has set her sights on graduating to the senior level, where she is currently ranked 107.
“The Ajmer tournament is my last junior category event. However, I’m contemplating competing in the British Junior Open in January. I’m determined to prove myself at the highest level and by doing that I will get a taste of what it is like to rub shoulders with the high and mighty of the sport,” explained Sunayna.
Just the mention of Dipika’s name in a hushed tone is enough for Sunayna to get goosebumps, and it takes her down memory lane. “Apart from being my older cousin, she is someone who inspired me a lot. It was she who introduced me to the sport when I was nine. She is my role model and I look up to her,” gushed the 18-year-old.
Another individual that Sunayna credits her recent upswing in form and fortune to is her coach Deepak Mishra, who is all of 23 years. “Deepak has been coaching me for the last one year. He was a player himself until a major injury cut short his playing career. It was then that he took up coaching. Before that, I trained under S Kalimuthu. As a player, it’s essential to learn the trade from different people,” remarked the high-flying Sunayna.