Squash Competition History
The first British Open Championship was held in 1933, and won by an Egyptian player named F.D. Amr Bey. His early domination of the game (he went on to gain four more British Open titles) may explain why squash became so well established in Bey’s home nation. Today, Egypt is still addicted to the sport and has 3700 squash courts – more than can be found in all the rest of Africa.
Unusually, the first major competition for women squash players preceded the men’s event by 11 years. The first ever Women’s British Open of 1922 was won by the British J.I. Cave, and it was not until 1960 that a non-Englishwoman won the title.
The British Open was effectively the world championship event until, in January 1967, seven nations formed the International Squash Rackets Federation (ISRF). Australia was one of the seven, the others being Great Britain, Egypt, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa, and later that same year the inaugural ISRF men’s championships were held. The membership grew to nine when the U.S.A and Canada joined in 1969. Competition was on the basis of a three-man team for each participating nation. In 1992, the ISRF became the World Squash Federation, which today has 142 members around the world.
The ISRF also introduced the World Amateur Individual Championship in 1967, and this was held bi-annually until 1983. By 1980, the men’s game was no longer split into amateur and professional spheres, and there was general consensus that an Open title competition should be created. The annual competition was known as the Premier World Individual Championship. With both a World Amateur Individual and a World Open competition every year, there was a surfeit of competitions and the ISRF and the International Squash Players Association (ISPA) agreed in 1983 to merge the two contests into a single World Open competition, to be played bi-annually in conjunction with the team event.
Squash only made an appearance in the Commonwealth Games in 1998, with men’s, women’s and mixed singles and doubles being played.
Currently, squash is not an Olympic sport, although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does recognise the World Squash Federation. Recent years have seen concerted efforts by the squash community to get squash added to the Olympic programme for first the 2008 and then the 2012 games. As yet, there has been no success.
The Khan Dynasty
No history of competitive squash could be complete without a brief mention of the Khans. In the early part of the twentieth century, British army officers stationed in Peshawar in the North West Frontier built a club, including several outdoor squash courts. The squash professional at the club was Abdulmajid Khan, and Abdullah Khan the steward. They were not related but their families later intermarried and an almost unconquerable dynasty of Pakistani squash players was born.
Eleven Khans have competed at the highest level of the sport in the intervening century, with most considering Jahangir and Jansher to be the most outstanding. Born in 1963, Jahangir Khan won the World Open six times, and the British Open on ten occasions. He was also unbeaten for five years between 1981 and 1986, winning 555 matches in a row. This record remains, unsurprisingly, unbeaten both in squash and the top-flight of all other sporting disciplines.
As if this wasn’t illustrious enough, the Khan family’s place in squash history was assured by the exploits of Jansher Khan, born in June 1969. He was successful in his bid to win the World Junior Squash Championship at the age of 17 and went on to win the World Open a record eight times, and the British Open an impressive six times.