Hamza Khan triumph at 2023 World Junior Championships stands as a testament to his spirit & potential

August 09 2023

After an extended period of time, Pakistan, a nation that once reigned supreme in the world of squash, received a heartening piece of news. The 2023 World Junior Squash Championship title was secured by Hamza Khan in Melbourne, Australia. This victory marked a significant moment, reminiscent of the legendary Jansher Khan's triumph 35 years earlier, which had brought home the same prestigious title.

Hailing from Peshawar, Hamza Khan's talent had already taken him to the 2019 Men’s World Junior Squash Championships in Malaysia, even though he was a mere 14 years old. Despite being one of the youngest participants, he demonstrated his mettle by winning the first round match in straight sets. Reflecting on the event, he recounted his lead in the second round, though his more experienced opponent managed to clinch the win.

Triumphs at the Under-15 British Junior Open Championship in 2020 and a promising performance at the Men's World Junior Squash Championships served as vital boosts for his self-assurance. Hamza Khan explained how these accomplishments instilled a strong sense of confidence and his aspirations to triumph in the under-17 event at the upcoming British Junior Open, as well as making a mark at the World Junior Squash Championship.

However, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic brought unforeseen disruptions. The cancellation of the 2021 British Junior Squash Open and the postponed World Junior Squash Championships in both 2020 and 2021 hindered Hamza's progress. Moreover, his practice routines were affected as the Hashim Khan Squash Complex in Peshawar was shut down due to the pandemic. In response, his father converted a room at home into a makeshift squash court to ensure his training continued.

During this time, Hamza's father, Niazullah Khan, emerged as his unwavering pillar of support, adapting to the circumstances to nurture his son's potential. Khan's uncle, Shahid Zaman, a former World No 14, played a coaching role from the USA. As life slowly returned to normal, Khan's uncle facilitated his participation in the Equinox Boston Open in 2021 through a wild card entry.

In September 2021, Hamza Khan participated in the Equinox Boston Open and reached the quarter-finals by defeating opponents ranked 130th and 72nd in the world. Despite narrowly missing victory in the quarter-finals against the 114th-ranked player, this event marked the beginning of his upward trajectory. Hamza's participation in four PSA satellite tournaments in the US led to resounding victories and a ranking ascent to 220.

Eager to further elevate his standing, Hamza entered more Professional Squash Association (PSA) Challenger Tour tournaments in 2022. Notably, he faced Farhan Zaman, a player ranked over 100 places above him, and secured a straight-game victory in the semi-finals. Although he emerged second-best in a hard-fought five-game final against Farhan Mahboob, a former World No.16, Hamza's determination and improved ranking were evident.

Amid his flourishing career, the Pakistan Army extended a five-year contract to Hamza to represent them in national events. However, Hamza faced challenges balancing his commitments with PSA events and the requirements imposed by the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF). His ambitions led him to participate in PSA tournaments in the USA, yet PSF's insistence on his participation in various events posed difficulties.

Despite these hurdles, Hamza's dedication led him to the 2023 World Junior Squash Championship in Melbourne. Amidst adversity and the absence of a coach or physiotherapist, Hamza's resolve remained unwavering. In the quarter-finals and semi-finals, he displayed remarkable tenacity, securing victories against strong opponents and advancing to the final.

The final of the 2023 Men's World Junior Squash Championships saw Hamza pitted against Egypt's Mohamed Zakaria. Despite facing a match point in the first game, his perseverance led to a narrow loss. However, he rallied in the following games, showcasing dominance with resounding victories. The emotional culmination of this journey was evident as Hamza secured the title, kneeling on the court and shedding tears of triumph.

In the aftermath of his victory, Hamza Khan's achievement was celebrated, with congratulatory messages and monetary rewards pouring in from various quarters. The support he received was widespread, except for any acknowledgment or apology for the difficulties he faced on his path to success.

Reflecting on the contrasting treatment Hamza received in comparison to his opponents, it's evident that his triumph was rooted in his sheer determination and the support of a few individuals who recognised his potential. Dr. Shahroze Khan, a Pakistani physician living in Australia, stood as a beacon of support, ensuring Hamza received proper nutrition during the championship.

Hamza Khan's journey to becoming the 2023 Men's World Junior Squash Champion is one marked by resilience, unwavering commitment, and the dedication of those who recognised his talent. The triumph, achieved against odds and challenges, stands as a testament to his spirit and potential.