London Victory Confirms Siva’s Voyage Back From Disaster

By RJ Mitchell

For Sivasangari Subramaniam, her triumph at the GillenMarkets London Classic earlier this week was not only her biggest win to date on the PSA World Tour, but it marked a hugely important milestone on her journey back from a serious accident that not only threatened to bring a shudderingly premature end to her squash career – but also left her with potentially life changing injuries.

The car crash that turned her world upside down may have happened in June 2022, but the scars, both mental and physical it left, have now, some 21-months later, finally been truly salved with the success that has confirmed her return to the rudest of squash health.

The 25-year-old’s staggering victories over the World’s No.1, No.4 and No.2 players in successive rounds of the London Classic in front of an almost disbelieving Alexandra Palace crowd providing unquestionable proof that the early pre-accident promise that marked Subramaniam as one to watch in the women’s game is now set to flourish to it’s true potential.

Yet as she reflected on all of this before taking a well – earned break, and now sitting at a career high of World No.13 in the PSA rankings, Subramaniam opened up on just how tough her recovery journey has been.

“I believe everything happens for a reason and it was tough and hard to come back to where I am,” she said.

“I had niggles and I just didn’t feel the way I had before the accident – it took a lot mentally to get back. Waking up every day doing rehab and forgetting about all the external factors and just focussing on building things back up was not easy.

“Also there were a lot of people saying that I wouldn’t get back on court again, mainly because of my neck as I had an infection in it which made it dangerous.

“So there were a lot of negative thoughts coming into my mind but I just came in every day and tried to stay determined, take it day by day and keep moving forward. I did have down times and doubted myself but I took it step by step – first I played college squash and then eventually back in PSA events and finally my confidence came back.

“Winning my first Gold Event at the London Classic is special, it is always special to win any event like I did in Hong Kong last August, but to win a Gold Event is great.”

Yet as the new World No.13 admitted, playing with a smile on her face – which was there for all to see down at the ‘Ally Pally’ – has also been important to her success.

The new and first London Classic champion said: “I think I did start putting too much pressure on myself and that didn’t allow me to enjoy my squash – and my attacking shots come when I am enjoying playing.

“When I am not enjoying it I’m too stiff and then that means more errors than winners. I like to enjoy myself and the crowd helped with all of that.”

With Subramaniam’s mental coach Jesse Engelbrecht very much in evidence between games, the Malaysian’s ability to cope with the pressure situations – notably after squandering matcha balls in both the semi – final and the final – proved crucial.

“I am working with Jesse a lot and he has helped me so much and at the London Classic I knew the pressure was on the top players and I tried to take advantage of that as much as I could.

“So I exceeded my expectations and I just tried to play freely.”

But as Subramaniam admitted, her success at last year’s Asian Games, where she struck gold in both individual and team event’s, was a crucial step back and one that saw her deal with a different type of pressure.

“The Asian Games was an event where I needed to prove to everyone that I’m back. The Asian Games is huge for Malaysia and there were still a lot of people doubting me and thought I wouldn’t make it back.

“So to win two gold medals and be the most successful player there was a big statement that I was back, then by the time I played the US Open they could all see it was getting better and better.

“Beating Amina Orfi in the Hong Kong final and playing well, also going five games with Gina (Kennedy) twice, these were signs that I was coming back. I wanted to make the breakthrough, but it wasn’t quite clicking in terms of getting the results against these top-10 players.

“But they are very different events. With Asian Games people set targets for you and there is always one or two golds people want you to win, whereas on PSA it is yourself who sets the targets.

“So the Asian was a lot of pressure and I just tried to stay composed, it was good that we won the team event which was first. But this (London) is a special win for me as well.”

Now that Subramaniam has announced herself as a major threat, the inevitable comparisons with her illustrious predecessor and eight-time World Champion Nicol David will inevitably multiply.

So how does the Malaysian No.1 feel about following in the footsteps of her country’s sporting icon?

“Nicol is a legend, she has set the bar really high with what she has achieved,” she said.

“So for me making history, after nine years, is good for Malaysian Squash. I am doing it for myself but I am sure there are a lot of people supporting me and I would love to be able to achieve even half of what Nicol did.”